June 3, 2016

EU expresses concern over declaration of Gülen movement as terrorist without due process

Maja Kocijancic, Spokesperson for European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has responded a question by Turkish Minute, stating that the EU notes with concern the decision taken by the Turkish National Security Council (MGK) to include the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen on the list of Turkish terrorist organizations.

“Any wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process,” Kocijancic also said.

Reminding that the EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to aspire to the highest possible democratic standards and practices, Kocijancic added: “Any country negotiating its EU accession needs to guarantee human rights, including freedom of expression, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”

“The EU believes that it is important to continue to address these important matters, as a key element of a continued constructive dialogue between the EU and Turkey,” Kocijancic concluded.

During a daily press briefing on Wednesday, United States (US) Spokesperson John Kirby also made clear that the US does not consider the Gülen movement a “terrorist organization” in response to a question regarding the politically motivated efforts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to frame the social movement as “terrorist.”

Last Friday, Erdoğan announced 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.

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, 3 June 2016, Friday