June 7, 2016

EP Christian Democrats’ Sommer says gov’t’s declaration of Gülen movement “terrorist” is against European values

Renate Sommer, the shadow rapporteur on Turkey for the Christian Democrats, which is the biggest group in the European Parliament (EP), has responded a question by the Turkish Minute, saying that the Turkish president’s designation of the Gülen movement as “terrorist” for political reasons runs against all European values and fundamental freedoms.

“President Erdoğan is moving Turkey further and further away from the EU. The decision taken by the Turkish National Security Council [MGK] to include the Hizmet movement [also known as the Gülen movement] on the list of terrorist organisations clearly shows how far the government is willing to go in order to silence the opposition and any critical voice. This runs against all European values and fundamental freedoms,” Sommer said.

According to Sommer, the European Parliament follows the anti-democratic developments in Turkey with big concern. She continued “I’m convinced that all political groups will continue to raise their voices against this authoritarian behaviour of the Turkish president and government, as well as we can under no circumstances accept the Presidents’ attempts to influence the freedom of expression even in EU member states and the harsh attacks against German MP’s after their votes on the Armenian genocide issue.”

The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.

President Erdoğan recently announced that “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” a term coined by himself, has been put on official records and that the Cabinet approved the decision. Erdoğan went on to say he has ratified the decision and the term will enter the National Security Policy Document. According to Erdoğan, the National Security Council (MGK) also accepted the group as “illegal organizations under legal mask.”

Since a massive corruption scandal that implicated then-ministers of the Cabinet erupted on Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan and the AK Party government claimed that the graft investigation was a “coup attempt” against his 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, and many high-profile figures, who were arrested as part of the investigation, were released and the prosecutors who initiated the case were later imprisoned as a result of political interference. However, four Cabinet ministers were forced to resign.

The major graft case was closed by other prosecutors who replaced them, with all the charges against politicians and business people being dropped. A parliamentary investigation against the four ministers was also dropped with AK Party votes. The graft probe had 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. 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 that declares the movement as a “terrorist group” either.

Published on Turkish Minute, 7 June 2016, Tuesday