October 12, 2015

Turkey is not a gentle, thornless rose garden for Erdoğan

Cafer Solgun

Today's Zaman is Turkey's leading, most prestigious English-language newspaper. Our successful Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş had become accustomed to spending a great deal of his time in courthouses, dealing with cases launched against him.

Finally, he was called to give testimony to prosecutors about some tweets he had made. After his testimony, he was sent to a court with orders to be arrested, but the judge in charge ordered that he be sent home, saying that an arrest was not necessary. But Public Prosecutor Umut Tepe, apparently determined to see Keneş arrested and imprisoned, pursued the case, finally managing to get another court to order Keneş's arrest on the basis that he was “continuing his tweets.” Tepe also apparently felt no need to hide his emotions from Keneş's lawyers, telling them: “I'm so happy. He's going to get caught. He's going to be arrested.”

Keneş is a journalist who also makes the most out of social media. And in fact, the basis of the case against him now rests on 14 tweets in particular, in which it is alleged that he insulted the president. If you want to be specific, though, one of these tweets is simply something written originally by Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, which Keneş just “re-tweeted.”

There is, of course, a critical side to much of what Keneş shares with readers on social media. One could even call some of his words and observations “harsh.” What I do not believe, however, is that you could term his tweets “insults.” Clearly, lawyers and prosecutors working for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan do not agree with this but the fact remains that whether Keneş's tweets were in fact insults or not, how can a man who is definitely not a flight risk, who is known both nationally and internationally for his journalism, really be arrested for his tweets?

Generally, holding someone in prison before their trial begins is precautionary method you use when you are dealing with a person who is either going to try and flee or who will try and destroy evidence before the trial. Thus, it is neither understandable nor acceptable to arrest and imprison a journalist who has not only not tried to erase any of the words for which he is being tried but who also came on his own accord to offer testimony when called.

In the end, we are all aware what lies at the basis of this case. In the run-up to the Nov. 1 election, Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are doing everything possible to scare the entire society via the media and to push opposition voices back against the wall. The arrest of Keneş is just one piece of this systematic oppression and its scare tactics.

And so we watch as six of the seven men arrested for attacking journalist Ahmet Hakan are set free on the basis of “insufficient evidence,” just as Keneş is taken into custody for his tweets. It is a tableau that lays bare for all to see the true disaster of Turkey's media and the unfortunate role played by the justice system therein. But in the end, it seems the regime is trying to force things. Turkey is not the gentle, thornless rose garden Erdoğan wishes to have for himself, nor will it ever be.

Massacre in Ankara

On the morning of Oct. 10, a peace rally organized by labor syndicates in Ankara turned into pools of blood. Strikingly, just one day before this ill-fated rally, pro-AKP and mafia figure Sedat Peker helped hold a different rally in a different city during which he warned that “blood will run in streams down the streets.” And just as we were trying to figure out what Sedat Peker was talking about, the awful news from Ankara started rolling in.

Now, we all know just how important it is to Erdoğan and his top AKP circles to give the world messages about the “powerful country of Turkey” whenever they can. But this massacre, which killed 95 people in the worst possible way, happened right in the center of the Turkish capital.

Interior Minister Selami Altınok and other AKP officials are busy insisting that there was no “security lapse.” You can be sure that no one is prepared to resign on the basis of what happened. In fact, the entire incident will wind to a close when the identities of the suicide bombers are determined. What will not be revealed is who organized this incident, who provoked it and who cooperated in seeing it happen. Just like all the other murders and massacres in Turkey in which the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has played a role.

Never in the history of Turkey have the leaders of this country been this brazen or this shameless.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 October 2015, Monday