February 1, 2015

Erdoğan’s baseless claim of Mossad-Gülen ties draws ire

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's accusation that the Gülen movement is cooperating with Israel's intelligence agency without providing any evidence is yet another example of his feeling free to slander as he pleases, although the president is known, when confronted with an accusation, to describe those who fail to prove their claims as dishonorable.

President Erdoğan dropped on Saturday yet another bombshell in his incessant fight against the “parallel structure,” his term to refer to the Gülen movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, claiming that the movement is cooperating with Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad.

In a speech dedicated almost entirely to his cause against the “parallel structure,” Erdoğan addressed in İstanbul “the honest people at the base of the parallel structure,” meaning the followers of the movement, and warned there “could be no excuse” for them “to remain under this roof.”

“Shame on them if they still don't see that this structure works in cooperation with Mossad,” he said, without feeling the need to provide any evidence for his claim.

Oktay Ekşi, a deputy from the Republican People's Party (CHP), criticized the president for failing to provide any evidence for his assertion.

“He [Erdoğan] has always said a claimant needs to prove his claim, but it is he who has never bothered to prove his claims,” Ekşi has told Today's Zaman.

“Honest people at the base of the parallel structure should see who this structure is cooperating with,” said Erdoğan, claiming that those who fail to join the fight against the movement “are doing an injustice to their country, conscience and religion.”

Erdoğan launched a war against the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, after a scandalous corruption investigation targeting people in his inner circle became public with a wave of detentions beginning on Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan accused the police officers, judges and prosecutors he claimed are linked to the Gülen movement of being behind the investigation, which he branded a “coup attempt.”

The investigation stalled when the prosecutors overseeing the case were removed and thousands of police officers, judges and prosecutors reassigned or removed as part of the president's fight since then against the “parallel structure.”

Gülen, based in the US, denies any link to the corruption probe.

Tunca Toskay, a deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also criticized the president for feeling free to make a claim without providing any evidence.

“This is a clear example of irresponsible behavior [on the part of] Mr. President,” Toskay told Today's Zaman, noting that Erdoğan has always demanded that the opposition needs to provide evidence for its claims.

Back in 2010, when the opposition parties said the government headed by Erdoğan was in talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Erdoğan dismissed the statement as untrue and said: “A claimant must prove his claim. If you can't prove that, [then] this is called a dishonorable act, ignominy.”

The government was later found to indeed be engaged in talks with the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

After the graft probes went public, Erdoğan also alleged that the movement is a “pawn” of “foreign imperial powers” and of an obscure “greater mind” plotting to undermine Turkey, but Saturday's remarks mark the first time he alleged links with Israeli intelligence.

The war against the Gülen movement comes amid a rollback of reforms that has alarmed both domestic critics and international rights groups.

In its annual freedoms report released last week, US-based watchdog Freedom House has stated that Turkey has drifted further from democratic reforms, with former Prime Minister Erdoğan rising to the presidency and overseeing government attempts to quash corruption cases against his allies and associates, as well as with greater interference in the media and the judiciary.

The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the government's handling of the corruption probe and called for transparency in addressing the graft claims.

On former TÜSİAD chairman: Who are you?

Erdoğan did not hide his frustration with those reluctant to join the fight against the “parallel structure,” especially targeting the former head of Turkey's largest business group, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), who recently said he does “not see a parallel structure.”

“He does see it very well, but it does not serve his interests to say so,” Erdoğan said of Haluk Dinçer, who handed over the top TÜSİAD job to Cansen Başaran-Symes on Jan. 22. He then speculated that perhaps Dinçer is being blackmailed by a “doctored” sound recording, again without elaborating.

Erdoğan also revealed his fury over Dinçer's past remarks indicating that he sees the prime minister as the “interlocutor,” not the president.

“Who are you anyway? This nation sees this humble man as its interlocutor. Who cares if you don't,” said Erdoğan, receiving a standing ovation from the audience, composed of members of the smaller business group All Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜMSİAD).

In calling on Erdoğan to provide evidence to prove his accusations against the Gülen movement, Ekşi implied that Erdoğan's remark is not worthy of being taken seriously.

Drawing attention to Erdoğan's claim about the former TÜSİAD head, an obviously baseless claim according to the CHP deputy, Ekşi said, “It is in this context that Erdoğan's remarks should be evaluated.”

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 01 February 2015, Sunday