May 1, 2015

Politicians, legal experts condemn raids against CSOs in Manisa

Politicians and legal experts have criticized the raids on five civil society organizations (CSO) in the western province of Manisa claimed to be affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, in what is seen as the latest in a series of government-orchestrated raids targeting the movement.

Five CSOs -- the Manisa Workers Association (MAÇAD), the Manisa Education Volunteers Association (MEGDER), the Manisa Active Educators Association (AKED), the Manisa Millennium Public Servants Association and the Manisa Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MASİAD) -- were specifically raided by dozens of police officers early on Thursday morning based on “reasonable suspicion” that they had committed crimes, in what many now know to be politically motivated police operations against the Hizmet movement.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims the Hizmet movement tried -- and failed -- to carry out a coup attempt against himself and the government in the form of a graft investigation that went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, implicating former Cabinet ministers, prominent businessmen close to the administration and even members of Erdoğan's family.

Manisa Police Chief Tayfur Erdal Ceren later justified the raids, calling the CSOs terrorist groups. “Those who provide financial assistance to these CSOs must understand that they are providing assistance to terrorist groups,” Ceren said to the press. However, Ceren's remarks have drawn ire for the complete lack of concrete evidence that the groups have links with terrorists.

Gülen's lawyer: If Turkey is democratic state, police chief must be suspended

Nurullah Albayrak, the lawyer for Gülen, criticized Ceren's statement, saying neither the police nor the president can determine whether a person or group is a terrorist organization. Albayrak underlined that classifying a person or a group as a terrorist organization can only be done by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

“In our country, which is said to be a democratic state governed by the rule of law, a police chief is able to, without any court decisions, declare all by himself a group that he deems contrary to his ideas a terrorist organization,” said Albayrak, adding, “If we are a democratic state governed by the rule of law as claimed, then this police chief must be suspended immediately.”

Former head of Manisa bar association: Ceren can no longer operate in Manisa

Former Manisa Bar Association head Zeynel Balkız said Police Chief Ceren can no longer operate in Manisa. Balkız, who is currently a deputy nominee for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), criticized the police operation against the five CSOs in Manisa, saying the operations were aimed at intimidating and ostracizing a certain group from society.

“Yesterday an operation took place in our city that we members of the judiciary cannot condone,” said Balkız, adding: “The reason given for the operation was searching for documentation and evidence of a ‘terrorist organization trying to overthrow the constitutional order.' As a result of the searches conducted as part of the operation, with the heads and members of the associations present, no substantial evidence of crime was found.”

CHP deputy: Turkey has never seen a period like this

Atilla Kart, a deputy for the Republican People's Party (CHP) and a member of the parliamentary Constitution Commission, criticized the events in Manisa, saying: “What is happening in Manisa is the domestic security package being put into practice. The arbitrary powers given to governors and district governors are being used. Straying away from the rule of law and violating the boundaries of authority are no longer a problem. Those who violate the boundaries of authority are acting with the belief that ‘one way or another, those upstairs [the government] will protect me'.”

“What is more, the violation of authority is seen as a way to ‘suck up' [to those in power]. Turkey has never seen, nor lived [through] a period like this. I was a lawyer at the court martial during the Sept. 12 [coup d'état period]. It was late, it was hard but the [rule of] law used to prevail,” Kart added.

Published on Today's Zaman, 01 May 2015, Friday