December 18, 2014

Opposition: Charges against detained journalist Dumanlı ‘ridiculous’

Charges related to defamation and membership in a terrorist group that have been leveled against the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily, Ekrem Dumanlı, have been slammed by members of the opposition parties who find the charges farcical.

Dumanlı was detained on Sunday in what appears to be government retribution against journalists reporting on graft and criticizing the government. During questioning, the prosecutor reportedly asked Dumanlı several questions that included suggesting he is a member of a terrorist group, asking whether he had read the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen's books and if he listened to the videotaped speeches of Gülen published on the website, prompting harsh criticism from the opposition.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Atila Kaya criticized the charges against Dumanlı “based on ridiculous accusations” and added, "What a shame that they are trying to accuse him [Dumanlı] of such irrational claims shaped around such ridiculous questions."

Representatives of different political parties throughout Turkey spoke out during various public gatherings, denouncing the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for a police operation in which television producers and journalists, including Dumanlı, were detained.

In response to the media figures such as Dumanlı and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca being taken into custody, MHP Ankara deputy Özcan Yeniçeri spoke during a press conference held in Parliament on Wednesday, saying: “We are against a virtual setup. The government is angered and frazzled by being caught in the crimes that were exposed on Dec. 17 [2013]. They have taken people into custody now with no legal or moral justification. The aim of allowing ‘reasonable suspicion' [to be the new standard] is to be able to conduct the lawlessness experienced today; even examining the file for the case is prohibited. It is clear that this operation is revenge against certain people and to make victims of them. To even mention the existence of rule of law is impossible when a columnist and reporters are being arrested in front of the entire world.”

Deputy Özcan continued his criticism and commented: “They [the government] have taken the state [in their hands] and are using the state to seek revenge against a sector of society. The reason for all this is rooted in boxes full of money, the $700,000 watches, and having seven different safes full of money in bedrooms.” The MHP deputy was referring to the money that was found in the homes of government officials during the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption investigations of last year.

“Never were these scandals to hit the press. President [Recep] Tayyip Erdoğan and his team have made it so that either you are one of them or you will be removed,” he added.

“For the last year, law and order have been suspended. The judiciary has become the stick of the government. Independent and unbiased judgment is not even considered, and the Dec. 14 operation is a perfect example of this,” said Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu. He went on to optimistically comment, “Whatever happens, one day justice will come through.”

Former AK Party Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertuğrul Günay also criticized the Dec. 14 operations and the current justice system in Turkey, saying on Thursday: “Hopefully this ridiculous accusation will be denied in a judgment today. Otherwise, I have great concern, not just for today but for the future.”

“I hope the injustices of the questioning period will be put in the past, and that there will be a decision to free those who have been taken into custody.” He further explained that if there is a court decision for arrest, then those in the ruling party will have shown their hand in the judicial system and that the trust the people of the country have in the justice system will deteriorate.

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakır deputy Altan Tan also condemned the action against members of the media, saying: “I think all of this is completely wrong. If everyone who gets power in their hands begins to imprison others, then there will be no such thing as democracy or the rule of law left in Turkey. Everyone will be harmed in this matter; therefore, I am against the mentality and philosophy of all this. It is necessary that reason and logic rule. But if things continue as they are, then no one can be certain of the future. The detained members of the media need to be released immediately.”

Another CHP Deputy Chairman, Engin Altay, also reviewed the events of the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption investigation and its relevance to the oppression of free media in Turkey, saying: “Dec. 14 has shown that freedom of the press and freedom to receive the news have been oppressed by the stick of the government that is the police and the justice department.”

“These events [the detentions] are revenge plots based on resentment for the Dec. 17 and 25 scandals. Conscience, justice and freedom have been lost, but the money they [AK Party ministers] took is still in place,” continued the CHP deputy.

Altay also addressed the claims made against the Hizmet movement, led by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, and the affiliated media groups that have been attacked by the ruling party. “I do not agree with the claims that Cemaat [another term used to reference the Hizmet movement] is a terrorist organization equipped with guns.” He also added that the ruling AK Party needs to move past the paranoia of a possible coup and claims of a parallel state.

President Erdoğan has continuously targeted Hizmet-affiliated media, schools, and a bank, accusing them of being a parallel state within Turkey and attempting to stage a coup with the corruption investigations of December of last year.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 December 2014, Thursday