January 15, 2016

GYV head says accused of terrorism due to critical stance toward gov’t

Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) President Cemal Uşşak claimed in a letter published by the T24 news portal on Friday that he has been accused of membership in a “terrorist organization” and a warrant has been issued for his arrest due to his strongly critical stance toward the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

“I was abroad and receiving medical treatment when I heard that a Turkish court had issued an arrest warrant for me. I was accused of being a member of a terrorist group. Just like [the Cumhuriyet daily Editor-in-Chief] Can Dündar. We do not have anything in our hands but a pen. However, those who are currently behind bars and I have committed an important crime (!): Politically, we oppose the government,” Uşşak wrote.

P24's founding president, veteran journalist Hasan Cemal, published the letter in his column on Friday. Cemal said that Uşşak had sent him the letter and he had decided to reserve his column for it. Uşşak wrote:
“Needless to say, the country is going through a very difficult period. As you may remember, I and many other scholars strongly supported the government during its first two periods in the office. We supported a government that had taken significant steps towards democratization and promoting civil rights by passing laws in order to adapt to European Union standards. We supported a government that managed to embrace millions of people from different backgrounds. Turks, Kurds, Muslims, Christians, Alevis, Sunnis, etc. We supported that AK Party government.

“I do not know about others but I have never regretted supporting the AK Party during that time. However, things completely changed in 2010, when AK Party officials came to understand that they had finally defeated their rivals. They started to think that they no longer needed anyone. They were able to rule just fine by themselves. The problems and bankruptcy we are experiencing today is the result of this extreme arrogance of government officials.

“Today, many journalists and scholars including Can Dündar, [Cumhuriyet Ankara representative] Erdem Gül, [Samanyolu Broadcasting Group CEO] Hidayet Karaca, Mehmet Baransu [a Turkish journalist under arrest for releasing classified documents] and more than 30 journalists are behind bars. Dozens of citizens are being tried for ‘insulting' the president. I do not remember any other president in the history of Turkey filing criminal complaints about citizens for insulting more than this one.

“If these cases are being filed over insults, then we should ask why dozens of people are insulting the president. If not, then why the president of this county cannot tolerate even the tiniest criticism.

“I know about the Turkish political arena since 1965. Except for the Sept 12, 1980 coup d'état, I do not remember any other time in which dissidents were being oppressed as much as now. Look how things have turned out over the Kurdish issue. Whatever anyone says, Kurds want peace. Two years have passed since [PKK leader] Abdullah Öcalan's message was read out before 1.5 million Kurds. Now, we wake up to the news of dozens of killed Turkish soldiers and PKK terrorists. Naturally, Kurds feel fooled by the government.

“Only Kurds?

“I feel deceived. This AK Party is not the same AK Party that I supported between 2002-2010. As you know, President Erdoğan has a famous saying: ‘Bu Şarkı Burada Bitmez!' [This song does not end here.]

“I think we need to change this a little bit: Bu Şarkı Böyle Bitmemeliydi! [This song should have not ended like this].”
The Ankara 8th Criminal Court of Peace issued a warrant for Uşşak in December of 2015 following a request by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office's Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, which is conducting a government-backed investigation into the so-called “parallel structure” -- a term coined by Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a grassroots initiative inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

A large number of businessmen, teachers, lawyers and police officers inspired by the teachings of Gülen have been targeted by the AK Party since a major graft probe was made public on Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time of the scandal, accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. He said he would do whatever it takes to eliminate the “parallel structure,” including carrying out a “witch hunt.” He has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means necessary. The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it and no evidence supporting Erdoğan's claims has been presented to date.

Uşşak, a Turkish author and journalist born in 1953, took over as head of the GYV in December 2015 after serving as the organization's vice president since 1995. He has worked at several TV stations and newspapers such as the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), where he was adviser to the general manager from 1979 to 1980. Uşşak's articles have been published in the Yeni Asya, Yeni Nesil, Zaman and Bugün dailies.

Uşşak was also a member of the 63-strong list of “wise men” who were asked by the government to mediate between the Kurdish and Turkish communities to improve the climate for peaceful relations in the country.

Published on Today's Zaman, 15 January 2016, Friday