March 25, 2015

Gülen’s lawyer says client has nothing to do with KPSS scandal

The lawyer of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen criticized on Wednesday the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office for involving his client in a case involving allegations of cheating in the 2010 State Personnel Examination (KPSS) -- a centralized exam used to determine those eligible for employment in state agencies -- without any evidence whatsoever.

Nurullah Albayrak, Gülen's attorney, said suspects detained in the case were asked unrelated questions about Gülen when there is no evidence warranting him being linked to the investigation.

He said the office of the chief prosecutor in Ankara has violated constitutional articles guaranteeing the presumption of his client's innocence and has trampled on protections awarded to Gülen as part of the right to a due process and a fair trial.

News report published since Monday indicated that suspects detained by the police were presented with a set of questions and statements saying, for example, “You have been identified as a member or a leader in the Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization.”

It was revealed on Tuesday that Gülen is being listed as the main suspect of the case despite the fact that he has been out of the country since 1999 and that there isn't a shred of evidence to prove he has anything to do with the KPSS exam, strengthening claims that the operations are targeting the movement as a part of a revenge campaign for the corruptions probes which went public in 2013.

Albayrak said there is no record of any court conviction that qualifies his client as being the leader of a terrorist organization and noted that prosecutors have no right to direct such questions without any evidence. He noted that what the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has done has violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is a binding agreement in Turkey.

He said criminal complaints will be filed against the police interrogators and prosecutors who declared his client as a terrorist. Noting that Gülen has been facing lies, slander, smears and smear campaigns for some time without any evidence presented to the public, Albayrak said he will exercise legal rights to fight these defamation campaigns.

A court issued an arrest warrant last week for Gülen and requested that the scholar be extradited from the United States, which is seen as a step towards an Interpol Red Notice and ultimately extradition from the US. US laws however require that the crime be recognized in both countries' jurisdictions and that the offense not be political in nature.

The First İstanbul Penal Court of Peace decided there was "sufficient tangible evidence" and agreed to issue the warrant for Gülen, a Turkish Islamic preacher who advocates a moderate Islam rooted in modern life. The move was a prelude to a formal request for Gülen's extradition from the US, where he is living in self-imposed exile in the state of Pennsylvania.

The government-orchestrated investigation into Gülen already led to an arrest warrant in December, a move that opposition parties call an election tactic employed by the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) during the election campaign.

Many in Turkey and abroad have criticized the government for instigating a sham investigation, which alleges that Gülen is the leader of an armed terrorist organization, based on a fictional series aired on a TV station.

Political authorities have already admitted that they had prepped the legal grounds for such a move by rushing unconstitutional legislation through Parliament, subordinating the judiciary to the executive branch and establishing highly controversial special courts.

Gülen's lawyers published a press statement via a Twitter account affiliated with the Islamic scholar on Tuesday, saying the real reason behind the KPSS operation was obvious. The lawyers said in addition to unsolved murder crimes being attributed to Gülen, the KPSS scandal was now being blamed on him.

“Any and all claims against my client purported to be in the prosecutor's indictment and which have found their way to the media are nothing but assertions and fabrications,” read the statement.

Many see the timing of the government-orchestrated operations as a smokescreen for the AK Party's goal of abolishing the centralized exam system and introducing an interview-based exam process -- independently undertaken by each state institution -- in its place in order to give an advantage to candidates with “references” from AK Party politicians. There have been longstanding criticisms that the AK Party has appointed its supporters to public positions in order to ensure that it remains the dominant force within the bureaucracy.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 March 2015, Wednesday