Erdoğan poised to land blow on former ally Gülen
“Dec. 17  was not a corruption operation,” Erdoğan said in the same speech. “It was a coup attempt. They had even prepared the list for the Cabinet to take over after us. We have all of the evidence in our hands now.”
If those words had been said seven years ago, one would have assumed that the target was the military, against which a number of investigations were under way, such as the “Ergenekon” and “Balyoz” cases. In those, not only ranking military officers, but academics, journalists, lawyers and NGO members were put in prisons and received heavy sentences.
Erdoğan’s target today is not the military, but the same police officers, prosecutors and judges who had spearheaded the probes to curb the military’s role in politics and, in the meantime, caused lot of collateral damage. In those days, Deniz Baykal, the former chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), labeled them the “F-Type structure.”
That “F-Type” labeling was in reference to the letter “F” of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist scholar living in the U.S. with a lot of sympathizers in Turkey’s police force, judiciary, education and media sectors, and who had been the closest ally of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) governments since 2002.
Gülen’s "Hizmet" (Service) Movement, also running thousands of schools in Turkey and more than 100 countries (previously with the diplomatic and political support of AK Parti governments), gave open political support to Erdoğan. Ahead of the 2010 Constitutional referendum, that support reached such a peak that Gülen even asked his supporters to come out of their graves to cast their votes for Erdoğan when they are dead.
Things started to go sour after Erdoğan received 50 percent of the votes in the 2011 parliamentary election, winning his third consequent election, after which he challenged Gülen to return Turkey to live. In that way, Erdoğan aimed to establish better control over Turkey’s education, judicial and security systems, which was an understandable aim. By then, the unfair judicial claims around Ergenekon and Balyoz cases had escalated.
Then, when allegedly Gülenist prosecutors were involved in cases attempting to interrogate Hakan Fidan, the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), the bridges between Erdoğan and Gülen rapidly started to crumble. Erdoğan took that move personally, because Fidan was acting upon his orders to start up a dialogue between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in pursuit of a political settlement.
The bridges completely broke when Istanbul prosecutors began the corruption probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 against members of Erdoğan’s government, bureaucracy, and even his family members. Erdoğan immediately said this was a plot by Gülenists, describing them a “parallel structure within the state” and vowing to root them out.
For nearly a year he has been threatening the Gülenists. He openly said that the top reason why he selected Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as his successor was Davutoğlu’s determination to fight against the “parallels.”
Now the time may have come, as we approach the anniversary of the biggest corruption probes, (cases that have already been dropped through the replacement of the prosecutors and judges), in Turkey’s history.
A warning by a fake and allegedly Gülenist Twitter account, “Fuat Avni,” on Dec. 11, saying that a major security operation was about to start against “Hizmet” to arrest journalists, lawyers, police officers, bankers and investors close to them, triggered a major debate in Turkey.
Then came Erdoğan’s words that I opened this column with. It is possible that there will be mass detentions in the next few days. If so, a major face off within the ruling AK Parti ranks will come to its final stage, with a considerable split.
Erdoğan also claimed that the “parallel network that is committing treason” has also been involved in “unsolved murder cases,” and this is the real tragic part of it. Because what he was hinting at was the murder of Hrant Dink, an Armenian-origin Turkish journalist killed in January 2007. A young triggerman called Ogün Samast was tried and found guilty for the killing, but the case is still not closed.
During the Ergenekon and Balyoz trials, prosecutors had tried to link Dink’s murder with the military. Now, the suspicions are directed toward the Gülenists.
Turkish police raid newspaper, detain editor-in-chief, head of broadcaster
Staff members and supporters of Zaman newspaper protest against a raid by counter-terror police outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Istanbul, Dec. 14. AFP Photo
Turkish police have launched a media operation to detain 31 people, including media figures and former police chiefs, simultaneously raiding addresses in 13 provinces across the country.
The raid on daily Zaman occurred at 7.15 a.m. local time, as supporters of the newspaper stood guard in front of the office building upon rumors that such an operation would take place.
Police returned to the newspaper’s office at around 2.00 p.m. on Dec. 14 after leaving the building in the morning without starting any proceedings. Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı was taken to police station after being shown the notification of his detention.
Many of Turkey’s media organs were broadcasting live in the newspaper’s office when Dumanlı was detained.
As the raids were being carried out in the morning, the crowd outside the Zaman offices chanted slogans and held banners reading, “The free press cannot be silenced.” Dumanlı also made a speech, broadcast live on television, defiantly calling on the police to detain him.
Samanyolu Media Group Head Hidayet Karaca and a producer, scriptwriter and director were also detained, as well as Tufan Ergüder, the former head of the Istanbul Police Department’s anti-terror branch and the former head of the Hakkari Police Department.
In addition, three police officers have been separately detained in Tunceli, Mardin and Şırnak provinces and have been sent to Istanbul, Doğan News Agency reported.
‘Detentions for launching armed terror organization’
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office has released a public statement, giving the list of individuals to be detained in the operation.
“The detentions have been ordered [for the people on the list] in order to take their testimonies on charges of founding and directing an armed terror organization, being a member of this organization, and engaging in forgery and slander,” the statement said.
A total of 11 people have been detained so far, the statement added.
Istanbul Deputy Public Prosecutor Orhan Kapıcı has declined to comment on whether Fethullah Gülen was on the list.
The semi-official Anadolu Agency reported that the operation was launched for the detention of 32 people, including senior police officers and media members, on charges of fabricating crimes and evidence in a 2010 investigation into an organization reportedly closed to al-Qaeda.
Some 122 people were detained in an operation against the “Tahşiye Organization” in 2010. Mehmet Doğan, a senior leader of the organization, spent 17 months in prison before being released. It was claimed that retired imam Doğan was opposed to the ideas of Fethullah Gülen.
Zaman and Samanyolu are known for ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has been at odds with the Turkish government, particularly since last December. The government accuses the Gülen movement of trying to stage a “coup” via a large corruption probe that broke in December 2013, which included a number of former Cabinet ministers and their relatives, along with many state officials.
The latest move also comes only two days after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signaled a fresh campaign against Gülen’s supporters.
In his most recent tweets posted on Dec. 10, mysterious Twitter user Fuat Avni, whose identity remains unknown, suggested that several journalists close to Gülen movement, including Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, would be detained in a raid on Dec. 12. He also gave many details about the dates, names and cities of alleged police operations, but later on Dec. 11 he posted more tweets suggesting that the police operations had been cancelled after the raid was revealed.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had earlier said rumors voiced by Fuat Avni over the potential detention of dozens of journalists should be taken “seriously.”
“I find the Twitter posts to be serious. I hope they will not come to pass, or not come true to this extent, for anything to happen out of jurisdiction,” Arınç said during budget discussions at Parliament late on Dec. 11.