February 9, 2015

CHP visits journalist under arrest since Dec. 14 media crackdown

A delegation from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has visited Samanyolu TV Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca, who has been under arrest since a government-backed police operation took place against independent media outlets on Dec. 14, 2014.

The CHP delegation went to Silivri Prison, where Karaca is being kept, on Monday. The delegation includes CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu and CHP İstanbul deputy Ali Özgündüz, who was previously a prosecutor.

Speaking with the press following the visit, Tanrıkulu said: “We have visited journalist Hidayet Karaca and former İstanbul Police Department Financial Crimes Unit Police Chief Yakup Saygılı." Saygılı was arrested on Sept. 4 on accusations of working to overthrow the government. "For us [the CHP]," Tanrıkulu continued, "Karaca's arrest from the beginning was a coup performed against the media and freedom of the press in Turkey. We also heard this from him [Karaca] and we also learned of information he has apart from the details covered in the media. He was arrested in a really unlawful manner and he has been in custody for 56 days.”

Tanrıkulu: Judges should stop being sticks of executive body

Tanrıkulu said the CHP will bring Karaca's arrest to the agenda in Parliament through parliamentary questions. “I will have questions for both the minister [Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ] and the prime minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu]. … A coup has been carried out against the media, regardless of the identity and ideology [of the media outlets]. There is pressure [being applied on the media]. This pressure is unlawful. Judges are being used as instruments of pressure [by the government]. Judges should not be serving this purpose. They should not implement unlawful orders. These judges should stop being the sticks of the executive body,” he said.

Saying that there is no law or justice to be found at the İstanbul Courthouse, Tanrıkulu also said the justice system has failed to serve Karaca and others. “I call on the [pro-government] judges: We know your identities. You will be asked about the unlawful practices you have made one day in the future. There are many convicts and people who were arrested who are being held unfairly and who are oppressed. We [the CHP delegation] are here to tell the public about this,” he said.

Karaca was detained along with Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı in the government-backed media operation targeting mostly media outlets that are close to the Gülen movement (Hizmet movement) inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Karaca was then arrested on Dec. 19 on suspicion of heading a terrorist group based on a TV series that was broadcast years ago on his television station.

He and three former police officers were arrested while Dumanlı was released. Karaca had refused to defend himself before the court as he viewed the court as lacking impartiality and independence.

The Dec. 14 police operation has largely been viewed as a politically motivated crackdown on media critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan and pro-government circles accuse the Gülen movement of being behind a major corruption and bribery investigation that implicated many high-ranking state officials, including Erdoğan and four former ministers, on Dec. 17, 2013.

In a related development, an independent deputy, Hami Yıldırım, asked a parliamentary question to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ over Karaca's arrest and a government-sponsored witch hunt that has been targeting many civil servants in various state institutions -- judicial personnel and hundreds of police officers in particular -- since the Dec. 17 graft operations.

Saying that dozens of people, including Karaca, have been under arrest for months as part of the government's ongoing witch hunt, Yıldırım asked why an indictment has not yet been prepared against those who are kept in prison and why they are there. Yıldırım also asked Bozdağ whether it is a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms to keep these people in prison for months without any indictment.

Hundreds of high-ranking police officers have also been detained in a series of synchronized raids in more than 20 provinces since July. These officers were involved in the Dec. 17 corruption operation, as well as investigations into the Balyoz (Sledgehammer), Ergenekon, Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and Tawhid-Salam cases.

Published on Today's Zaman, 09 February 2015, Monday