May 29, 2016

Politicians react against move to frame Gülen movement as “terrorist organization”

A number of politicians have spoken out against politically motivated move to frame Gülen movement — a grassroots initiative comprising people inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen – as a “terrorist organization.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Friday that he is expecting a Cabinet decision that will officially declare sympathizers of the Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization” in order to put them on trial, in what is widely considered a move by the president of acting like the judiciary.

“Now we are awaiting a Cabinet decision from the government, we will register them as a terrorist organization. They will be put in a judicial process under the same category with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. Because they made this nation suffer,” Erdoğan said, referring to the movement.

Former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Haluk Özdalga, former Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Atilla Kart and former deputy prime minister Ertuğrul Yalçınbayır spoke to Yenihayat daily on Sunday, saying that recent move to frame Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization” is unlawful.

“If any other political party comes into power in the future, it can also declare any civil movement that it wants to end a terrorist organization [using this move]. … In order to declare a movement a terrorist organization, there must be enough evidence supporting that claim. There are not any [in this case]. We know that the Fethullah Gülen’s movement has no connection with terror attacks or any other armed assaults. But at this point, everything can happen in Turkey. Projects such as these aim at taking revenge and they are so wrong,” Özdalga said.

Emphasizing that the move is a part of government-led process of constitutional coup, legal expert and former CHP deputy Kart said that people should make use of their right to civil resistance against it.

Former deputy prime minister Yalçınbayır also spoke to Yenihayat, saying that the move to frame Gülen movement as a terrorist organization does not comply with the law. “This is impossible to accept. This kind of moves are great warnings against the negative consequences full presidencial system would create,” Yalçınbayır added.

Since a massive corruption investigation that implicated then-ministers of the Cabinet came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan and the AK Party government claimed that the investigation was a “coup attempt” against the government and accused the Gülen movement of being behind it. The sons of ministers, well-known business people, a district mayor, a director of a state-owned bank, who were all indicted in the investigation, were released and the prosecutors overseeing the case were discharged as a result of political interference.

The major graft case was closed by other prosecutors who replaced them. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.

Erdoğan refers to the movement as “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” which is used by the government-backed judiciary to frame sympathizers of the Gülen movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Erdoğan also coined the term “parallel state” after December 2013 to refer to people believed to be inspired by the ideas of Gülen, especially those within the state bureaucracy.

Following the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery scandal, Erdoğan and the government launched a witch hunt against the Gülen movement and its sympathizers. Erdoğan personally declared he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. Thousands of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs were reassigned, dismissed or imprisoned either for taking part in the corruption investigation or based on allegations of having links to the movement. Also there have been many police operations carried out targeting shopkeepers, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.

The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it. There is not a court decision which declares the movement as a “terrorist group” either.

Published on Turkish Minute, 29 May 2016, Sunday