February 17, 2015

Hidayet Karaca, banditry and Turkey’s eroding image

Bülent Keneş

Corrupt politicians who target innocent people for certain political reasons or in an effort to cover up their terrifying crimes will have to violate laws and commit more crimes and engage in unethical acts that amount to banditry.

If you a politician from the ruling party with a known history of corruption, fraud, theft, bribery, immorality and unlawfulness, what you do to innocent people who refuse to be your partners in crime or who chastise your unlawful acts will be nothing but oppression. This is what was done to police officers and chiefs whose sole crime was to perform their duty to combat corruption, bribery and espionage in line with court decisions and under the direction of public prosecutors. Oppression is the best definition of the unlawful and unfair treatment afforded to the police officers and chiefs who were detained on frivolous charges on July 22, 2014 and have been in jail since then even though no indictment has been drafted.

The despotic regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which cannot tolerate even the slightest trace of law and judiciary due to the graft and bribery scandals that went public on Dec. 17, 2013, has recklessly turned the police and judiciary into an ordinary weapon against dissident groups since then. In this despotic and unlawful process, discourses and acts that cannot normally be accepted as crimes according to normal legal norms have been defined as crimes, and forged documents and fake evidence have been manufactured so that innocent people can be accused. The ruling gang of criminals, who are knee-deep in crimes that are normally considered as such in a country governed by the rule of law, have added to their record of crimes additional acts of oppression.

There is no doubt that one of the most scandalous acts of crime in the repository of the main actors of the graft scandal of Dec. 17, 2013 has been to deprive Samanyolu Media Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca of his freedom. Detained along with Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of Turkey's bestselling newspaper Zaman, and soap opera executives and employees, Karaca has been in jail since that time. In a letter he sent on Monday, Karaca protested: “I have been in jail in Silivri Prison for 65 days without any evidence to justify my imprisonment. The only charge raised against me is about two dialogues in the soap opera “Tek Türkiye” [One Turkey], which was aired in 2009. Thus, they have made me a leader of a terrorist organization. My freedom was taken away in a coup against the free media.”

Like many other ordinary citizens who have never got into trouble with the legal system, Karaca is being targeted by the Erdoğan regime that is growing increasingly despotic. In a country where even young people aged 12 or 13 are imprisoned on charges of insulting Erdoğan, about 30 people who were protesting the intimidation operation of Dec. 14, 2014 against the free media were detained in Şanlıurfa. Among the detainees was a reputed businessman. As he was being released from custody 24 hours later, this businessman told reporters: “I am 55 years old. I have never been in breach of the law. I have never been taken to court. But it has now happened. I was detained on charges of protesting the operation against the free media. This detention is a source of honor for me.”

It has unfortunately become characteristic of the Erdoğan regime to intimidate this country's most respectable figures with unlawful and reprehensible acts by abusing state power. As the Erdoğan regime shamelessly and unlawfully attacks dissident groups, including the Gülen movement -- a civil society organization known for aid, solidary and assistance campaigns in Turkey and around the world -- this has increased the loneliness and isolation of Erdoğan in the international community. Erdoğan may be trying to ward off this fact -- which he personally confessed to spin doctors -- by saying “I don't care,” but it is undeniable that this fact is undermining Turkey's interests. But I am sure the international public that is free from the poisoning effects of Erdoğan's smear campaign machinery and pro-government media outlets can correctly analyze the developments in Turkey. Thus, they can see who is innocent and who is wallowing in the mire of their crimes.

Erdoğan's dictatorial regime may be deceiving its fans with lies, slander, smear and smear campaigns but these lies can hardly deceive the international public. Therefore, the despotic Erdoğan regime is being treated as leprosy all around the world. As a matter of fact, Erdoğan deserves it to the highest extent but the damage is being done to the glorious presidential office he occupies. Erdoğan is living in a dream world of his fantasies even though he is knee-deep in crime and swinging between incurable paranoia and unfounded self-confidence. As such, he has become a burden for Turkey. Due to his crimes, controversial ties and national and international weaknesses, Erdoğan is now a full-fledged national security problem for Turkey.

The despotic Erdoğan regime is now trying to implement a typical martial law regime with the controversial domestic security package and because it targets ordinary innocent people, it is increasingly targeted by the world's democratic institutions and circles. Every day, reputed international media outlets and prestigious venues such as Foreign Policy, The American Interest and Foreign Affairs publish new stories about Erdoğan's despotism, arbitrariness and unlawfulness. Human rights organizations, civil rights advocates and journalism organizations increasingly target Erdoğan's regime.

In other words, Erdoğan-led Turkey's prestige is eroding just as Erdoğan's reputation is waning away. Erdoğan has turned into a leader with whom US and European leaders and other democratic leaders avoid contact, and with him, Turkey is swiftly drifting into the “rogue state” category. As the country's unity and integrity is being undermined by the unlawfulness and arbitrariness of Erdoğan and his aides, Turkey is being referred to as a “failed state” in international intellectual circles.

In objective reports and indexes by Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Article 19 and similar prestigious organizations, Erdoğan-led Turkey is quickly going down. As acts of arbitrariness and unlawfulness increase, Turkey's new position is quickly emerging as an irreversible problem. For instance, Turkey ranks 149th in the Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index and it is no longer treated as country where the media is free by Freedom House.

Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Press Freedom in Turkey
(Click to enlarge)
Turkey ranks first in terms of censorship of Twitter messages and second after India as regards efforts to censor Facebook messages. Given the huge gap between the two countries' populations, Turkey can be considered as also ranking first as regards censorship of Facebook. The Erdoğan dictatorship faces not only harsh reactions from human rights organizations and democratic international journalism organizations but also condemnation resolutions from the European Parliament with support from all groups in the parliament. Likewise, 88 representatives in the US Congress sent a letter with strong emphasis on Dumanlı and Karaca.

The despotic Erdoğan regime, which keeps our friend Karaca and other innocent people in jail for months without providing any justification, is undermining Turkey's prestige in the international arena in an incurable manner. The people of Turkey, and in particular Karaca and others, do not deserve this oppression and the Turkish Republic does not deserve this lack of prestige.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 February 2015,