February 4, 2015

Albayrak: Revoking Gülen’s passport is not fit for a state ruled by law

Nurullah Albayrak, the legal representative of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in Turkey, has said that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government claims of having revoked Gülen's passport do not comply with the principles of a state ruled by law.

Speaking with Today's Zaman on Wednesday in response to media reports stating that the Turkish authorities have informed the US that Gülen's passport has been revoked, Albayrak said the judicial process for revoking Gülen's passport has not been completed. Albayrak said instead of following the principles of a state ruled by law, the AK Party government is trying to pressure Gülen and his sympathizers through its administrative decisions.

Giving details of the case related to Gülen's passport, Albayrak said the decision of the Erzurum Governor's Office that annulled Gülen's green passport (a passport given to public servants) on March 28, 2014 was overturned by the Erzurum Administrative Court on June 23, 2014, emphasizing that Gülen's passport is still valid. On Dec. 20, 2014 the 10th Chamber of the Council of State quashed a previous verdict by the court in Erzurum and Gülen's lawyers have applied for the annulment of the Council of State's decision, Albayrak continued. Therefore, the Erzurum Administrative Court's verdict is still binding and Gülen's passport is still valid, Albayrak added. Albayrak also refuted allegations that his client is preparing to flee the US, saying that Gülen's address is known by both Turkish and American authorities.

Gülen, who worked as a religious official and preacher in the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB) before resigning in 1981, obtained the passport in 1991 after a law was passed enabling retired public servants to acquire green passports.

According to Albayrak, the legal process will come to an end when the Council of State gives a decision after Gülen's lawyers' application for an annulment of the previous decision, after which this decision must be sent to the Erzurum Administrative Court. Albayrak further noted that the court may or may not find the Council of State's decision appropriate and may stick with their first decision, which annulled the decision of the Erzurum Governor's Office that canceled Gülen's green passport. If the administrative court resists the Council of State's decision then the final decision will be given by the Council Of State sitting as the Plenary Session of the Chambers for Administrative Cases.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday that Turkish authorities have informed the US authorities that Gülen's passport has been revoked. Replying to the claims made by journalists in that story, Albayrak wrote on his Twitter account: “If this news is true, the Turkish authorities have lied to the US authorities. The administrative court has annulled that [passport revocation] process.” Albayrak finished his tweets by underlining that legal action would be taken against those who disregard the court's decisions and spread false information.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said the process of revoking Gülen's passport has been followed by the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry informed the US authorities about the process on Jan. 26. When asked about the possible extradition of Gülen to Turkey by the US, Bilgiç said the process has to be started by the Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had already called for Gülen to be deported from the US, and a court in İstanbul issued an arrest warrant for him as part of a government orchestrated operation against media organizations affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement inspired by Gülen's views.

Replying to a question by an Anadolu news agency reporter on Monday, US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki rejected speaking on Turkey's request to extradite Gülen. An Anadolu news agency reporter said to Psaki, “Turkey is applying for a red notice for the Pennsylvania-based Fethullah Gülen, and the process at home is now completed, but now the Interpol side is going on.”

In another press conference on Tuesday, Psaki, when a reporter from the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) asked for updated information about Gülen, said the Turkish government should be asked. The reporter had said, “As we know that his passport has been canceled by Turkish officials.”

When asked about the claims that Gülen was to be extradited from the US by means of “diffusion,” a type of Interpol request for cooperation or an alert mechanism, as the red notice process required by Interpol was deemed to take too long, Albayrak pointed out that these allegations are not truthful. “It is not possible to issue a message of diffusion for a person whose address is known. Mr. Gülen is in the US. Turkish, American and Interpol authorities have information on the whereabouts of Mr. Gülen. In the face of these facts, these allegations bear no validity,” said Albayrak to Today's Zaman.

Criticizing the attitude of the state-run media, Albayrak said that there are no words to express the immoral policy of these media outlets against Gülen and his movement, which should be expected to comply with the universal ethical values of the press.

Albayrak noted that the US authorities are more concerned about the legal dimensions of the allegations against Gülen and expected to approach the case seeking concrete evidence to be submitted to the courts.

President Erdoğan launched a war against the Gülen movement after a corruption investigation targeting individuals in his inner circle became public with a wave of detentions on Dec. 17, 2013. Erdoğan accused police officials, judges and prosecutors he claimed were linked to the Gülen movement of being behind the investigation, which he branded a “coup attempt.”

Since then, Erdoğan has alleged that the movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, is a “pawn” of “foreign imperial powers” and of an obscure “greater mind” plotting to undermine Turkey.

Published on Today's Zaman, 04 February 2015, Wednesday