August 9, 2015

Report: Pro-gov’t dailies charged with slander in Erdoğan daughter ‘assassination’ claim

Prosecutors have charged two pro-government newspapers for printing “fabricated” Twitter conversations, which they said were between two opposition lawmakers and a journalist they claimed was the owner of Twitter whistle-blower Fuat Avni and allegedly indicated a plan to “assassinate” the daughter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a news report said on Saturday.

Akşam and Güneş newspapers, both owned by businessman Ethem Sancak who has very close ties to President Erdoğan, ran front-page stories in February based on alleged Twitter messages between Emre Uslu, a journalist that they claimed was the user of the Fuat Avni account, and two lawmakers of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Umut Oran and Akif Hamzaçebi.

The alleged messages between Oran and Uslu discussed an assassination plot targeting Erdoğan's daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan, which had beenordered by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, according to the two dailies.

Hamzaçebi and Uslu, on the other hand, discussed collaboration between the CHP and the “parallel structure” in the run up to the June 7 parliamentary election, according to the alleged conversations.

The term parallel structure has been invented and heavily used by Erdoğan to refer to an alleged network of Gülen movement followers within the state bureaucracy, although he later expanded it to refer to the entire movement.

Oran, Hamzaçebi and Uslu have all dismissed the claims, while Uslu also denies he is the owner of the Fuat Avni Twitter account.

Responding to a legal complaint from Oran and Hamzaçebi, Hüseyin Parlakkılıç, an İstanbul prosecutor dealing with crimes committed via media, has charged the two dailies with “successive insults and slander.” Parlakkılıç and another prosecutor, Mustafa Gökay, have brought a total of five lawsuits each for the two dailies, according to the report published on Hürriyet daily.

An 11-page indictment prepared by Parlakkılıç and sent to Bakırköy Second Criminal Court of First Instance cites an expert report which describes the alleged Twitter conversations as an “inept effort to create fake evidence.”

The alleged Twitter conversations were widely ridiculed on the social media when they were first published by Akşam and Güneş, with users quickly finding out that some of the alleged messages were longer than Twitter's limit of 140 characters. But the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office still launched an investigation into the claims of the planned assassination.

Parlakkılıç's indictment reveals that the prosecutor has contacted the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office to receive its assessment of the alleged Twitter messages but that no such assessment has been provided within the required time.

The indictment says the newspapers violate the laws by attempting to “create an impression” that the complainants are members of a terrorist organization and involved in an assassination plan without sufficient evidence or journalistic investigation to support such claims.

Oran previously disproved the false accusations after asking Twitter to send documentation of all his correspondence on the site.

In March, Oran shared the official documents provided by Twitter with members of the media, saying: "Here is all of my correspondence [on Twitter] over the last four years. There is not even one single message that I sent or received from this virtual person [Fuat Avni], as the 73-page document sent by Twitter has proved. Also, it is impossible for there to be direct messaging between us because I do not follow Fuat Avni, nor does he follow me."

Published on Today's Zaman, 8 August 2015, Saturday