February 12, 2016

Mr. Gülen’s lawyer: Views other than state ideology considered a crime in Turkey

Nurullah Albayrak, the lawyer of prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, has criticized the blocking of herkul.org, a website that regularly broadcasts speeches by Gülen, saying views that are different from the state ideology are considered a crime in Turkey today.

State-controlled Internet watchdog the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) blocked access to herkul.org based on a decision taken by the İstanbul 7th Penal Court of Peace on Thursday.

Visitors could not access the website on Thursday but received a notification saying TİB had imposed a “protection measure” for the website.

Underlining in a statement on Friday that blocking herkul.org is unjust, Albayrak reiterated that the official ideology of a state cannot be imposed on people in a democracy, nor can people be forced to share the same view. “Having views other than the official ideology of the state is considered a crime in anti-democratic societies,” he added in the statement.

Albayrak also rejected assertions that his client Gülen gives orders through the website as is claimed in the court decision. He also said no concrete evidence has been given to courts in other trials of Gülen to support the allegation that the scholar passes orders to his followers through herkul.org.

“If we even consider that he does so, Penal Courts of Peace are not authorized to give a decision on cybercrimes according to Law No. 5651 on cybercrime. A High Criminal Court must look into the case,” Albayrak said.

The website's editor, Osman Şimşek, also condemned the ban. “Access to our herkul.org website was blocked by a court decision. Now it will not be able to build bridges among our hearts. … God is generous!” he tweeted.

The move comes amid increasing pressure on the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the scholar.

Since Turkey's largest-ever corruption investigation was made public on Dec. 17, 2013, following police operations in the homes and offices of people from the inner circle of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party leadership have accused sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the police forces and judiciary, of plotting to overthrow the government. The movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.

Since the scandal, a number of business groups, media outlets, aid organizations, civil society organizations, universities, private schools and prep schools that were established by people sympathetic to the Gülen movement have been targeted by government-orchestrated police raids and investigations.

Erdoğan has openly announced on several occasions since December 2013 that he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. He has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to institutions that are linked to the Gülen movement by any means necessary.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 February 2016, Friday