September 18, 2015

Delayed indictment for Tahşiyeciler probe emerges, raising suspicion of new plot

The lawyer of Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Hasan Günaydın, has said the prosecutor in an investigation launched over charges of defaming an al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler failed to bring charges against his client due to a lack of evidence in the newly prepared indictment, but added that the fact that the prosecutor has not yet decided not to prosecute Dumanlı has led to concerns about whether a new plot has been put in place against his client.

The indictment in the Tahşiyeciler investigation, which saw an unprecedented crackdown on the press, including the detention of top journalists, has only recently been prepared after nine months of groundless accusations being leveled at the suspects. The indictment, which was supposed to be submitted to court, was made public by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Thursday evening, even though it has not yet been made available to defense lawyers.

The indictment reportedly seeks up to 34 years in prison for Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen on charges of "forming and leading an armed organization" while Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca is accused of "being a member of a terrorist organization" and faces up to 27 years in prison. However, Dumanlı's name was not present in the prepared indictment, meaning that the prosecutors did not find any concrete evidence to be able to bring charges against the Zaman daily editor-in-chief, who was among those detained on Dec. 14 of last year as part of a government-initiated media crackdown in which the police raided the daily's headquarters.

Releasing a written statement on Friday, Dumanlı's lawyer Günaydın highlighted that his client was accused of establishing a terrorist organization and leading it just based on two columns and a news report that were published in the Zaman daily about Tahşiyeciler, saying: “As we said from the beginning, the Tahşiyeciler case is completely fabricated. We think all of the suspects in the case would be acquitted if a fair trial were to be conducted.”

Referring to the recently prepared indictment, Günaydın said his client's name was not included in it, meaning that he is no longer a suspect at all. “However, a news report by the Anadolu news agency that said Dumanlı's case was separated from the Tahşiyeciler investigation has led to confusion in the public's mind as well as leading to jurists becoming worried because the Code on Criminal Procedure [CMK] says either a trial is to be started after the preparation of an indictment or a non-prosecution decision is to be given. There is no other third legal option apart from those two decisions, according to the CMK. According to Article 170 of the CMK, an indictment is prepared if there is sufficient suspicion that a crime was committed. If there is insufficient suspicion that the crime was committed, the prosecutor decides not to prosecutor further under Article 172 of the CMK,” said Günaydın, further emphasizing that the prosecutor has to give the decision not to prosecutor Dumanlı under these current circumstances because sufficient evidence has not been found against Dumanlı.

Pointing to the Anadolu news agency's report on the separation of Dumanlı's case once again, the lawyer highlighted that the option of separating cases is not possible in Dumanlı's circumstance under the current law.

Expressing his concerns, Günaydın asked why the prosecutor in the case has not yet decided not to prosecute Dumanlı, asking further what the prosecutor is planning to do by not implementing what the CMK clearly sets out. The lawyer also questioned whether a new plot has been put in place against his client, adding that they are concerned that false evidence is being fabricated to start a new process of slander against Dumanlı.

In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, Dumanlı, Karaca, soap opera scriptwriters and police officers were detained on charges of terrorism and of being part of a gang that conspired against Tahşiyeciler, following a speech by prominent Turkish scholar Gülen in 2009, in which the scholar warned against a group that "might" be called Tahşiyeciler that was linked to al-Qaeda. The prosecutors who ordered the Dec. 14 detentions claim that following Gülen's speech, Dumanlı ordered two columnists to write about Tahşiyeciler and that he published a news report on the speech. The allegations also claim that Samanyolu TV made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera it broadcast. It is further claimed that the police then “unfairly” raided the group.

İstanbul Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz, who is supervising the investigation, issued an arrest warrant for Gülen -- a Turkish Islamic scholar who advocates a moderate Islam rooted in science -- on Dec. 20, 2014 as part of the operation. Penal Judge of Peace Bekir Altun sent many people to prison as part of the case, including Karaca.

Defense lawyers strongly deny the accusation, which they say has not been substantiated.

Karaca's lawyer says indictment purposefully leaked to pro-gov't media

Karaca's lawyer, Fikret Duran, said the indictment was purposefully hidden from defense lawyers and leaked to the pro-government media. "Although we asked the prosecutor's office whether the indictment is ready just yesterday [Wednesday], we were not told that the indictment was ready; but the document was leaked to the press," Duran tweeted on Thursday.

Stating that since the probe was launched the authorities have refused to share its details with defense lawyers, Duran said the release of the document was a deliberate move to sway public opinion against the suspects. "Because the case file is empty, there is no evidence. But now it is our turn to speak. The case of Hidayet Karaca will turn into a case in which those who unlawfully arrested a journalist will stand trial and will be convicted," the lawyer continued. Duran went on to say that the fact that the pro-government media was given the indictment first also seems to have the aim of making his client look like a criminal, adding that he will ask the İstanbul Public Prosecutor's Office about the indictment again on Friday.

Karaca was arrested on Dec. 19 of last year based on a script from “Tek Türkiye,” a fictional soap opera that features anti-terrorist battles in Turkey which was broadcast on Samanyolu TV.

Duran also said his client has not been asked any other question apart from those about the script of the TV series during his interrogation at the prosecutor's office, adding: “Because there has been a confidentiality order issued about the case, we do not yet know what Karaca is being accused of for sure. Because no additional testimony has been asked for [after the first testimony during Karaca's interrogation by the prosecutor's office], we understand that they have failed to bring any concrete evidence against my client. The indictment does not include anything concrete.”

The prepared indictment has been sent to İstanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapıcı. After Kapıcı approves it, the indictment will be sent to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court or the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court. Those courts will either accept the indictment or send it back to the prosecutor's office within 15 days.

Gülen's lawyer says Turkey will see how innocent people are accused of terrorism

Gülen's lawyer Nurullah Albayrak stressed that the indictment has not been accepted by the court yet. "If the indictment is accepted and the investigation turns into a trial, we will all see how people who did not even hold a pocket knife in their lives were turned into a terrorist group, and who plotted against whom," Albayrak said. The lawyer has denied many times in the past the pro-government media's claims that Gülen leads a "terrorist organization," stressing that Gülen has had no intention other than to establish tolerance and dialogue in society throughout his life.

Gülen is a Turkish Islamic scholar whose teachings inspire the Hizmet movement, also called the Gülen movement, a civil society organization. The movement promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world.

Other suspects in the indictment are Tufan Ergüder, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Yurt Atayün, Ömer Köse and Mutlu Ekizoğlu, the former police chiefs who were detained as part of various government-orchestrated operations against the police forces following the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 graft scandal that implicated four former ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, pro-government businessmen, then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle. Each of those police chiefs faces up to 27 years in prison.

The Zaman daily and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group are both affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which has been accused of attempting to oust the government through sweeping government graft probes that went public in December 2013 and implicated numerous high-profile individuals. The government is yet to provide solid evidence of its claims.

The Tahşiyeciler group was raided in 2010 over its alleged links to al-Qaeda, and its leader, Mehmet Doğan, spent 17 months in prison. After more than five years had passed since the first Tahşiyeciler indictment, one of the individuals who stood trial as part of the Tahşiyeciler case launched a criminal complaint on May 16, 2014 against certain individuals based on Gülen's speech in 2009 and the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation which reached its conclusion with the detention of Dumanlı on Dec. 14. Tahşiyeciler leader Mehmet Doğan, who was detained and later released pending trial, acknowledged in an interview with CNN Türk in December 2014 that he "loves Osama bin Laden."

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 September 2015, Friday