31 detainees released, 12 referred to court for arrest in Konya-based probe
Thirty-one people who were detained in simultaneous Konya-based police operations across 19 provinces on Friday as part of an investigation into the so-called “parallel structure” were released over the weekend after questioning while 12 detainees were referred to court for arrest.
The “parallel structure/state” is a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement following the eruption of a massive corruption scandal in December 2013.
A total of 43 people were detained in Friday’s police raids. Twenty suspects were released on Saturday, with an additional 11 released on Sunday after giving testimony. Twelve of the detainees, including Anadolu Atayün, a former police chief and head of the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau, were referred to the Konya courthouse for questioning following medical examinations from where they were referred to court for arrest. Police were reportedly looking for 23 other people, including former police chief Salih Tuzcu as well as the president of the Active Businessmen’s and Industrialists’ Association.
The investigation, conducted by the Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, was centered on Konya but spread across 19 provinces. The Konya Governor’s Office said there were detention warrants for 66 people in Konya alone.
Among those released were former rector of the private Mevlana University, Bahattin Adam; former vice president of the Higher Education Board (YÖK) Şaban Çalış; businessman Hilmi Akdeniz; and Ercan Taştekin, a lawyer and former deputy chief of the anti-organized crime unit of the Konya Police Department.
The operation, which the detainees’ lawyers said were based on flimsy charges aimed to intimidate government critics, targeted businessmen perceived to be close to the Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet — inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen — as well as former Konya police chiefs, officers, lawyers and many others.
An executive of Okyanus Group, the business at the center of the investigation, was previously the target of anti-corruption operations carried out by teams led by Atayün and Taştekin in 2008. A total of 234 people involved in dealings with Okyanus were detained on charges of forming a criminal organization, forgery, tender-rigging, bribery and violating the confidentiality of the investigation as the criminal probe expanded.
The holding’s CEO, Nusret Argun, was convicted on 73 separate charges and sentenced to more than 180 years in jail. Another high-profile suspect in the case, the former rector of Selçuk University in Konya, was sentenced to five years in prison. A total of 114 other suspects were also convicted while 117 people were acquitted. The investigation against the former police chiefs is said to have been launched following complaints by those convicted against police officers. The officers are accused of using falsified evidence against suspects in the 2008 probe.
Atayün’s wife Birsen, who came to the Konya courthouse to support her husband along with their children, said Konya was cleared of organized crime thanks to the efforts of her husband and colleagues. “Leading businessmen used to visit my husband to thank him for his efforts to rid Konya of mafia and gangs,” she told reporters.
In a statement that the detainees’ lawyers described as “scandalous,” the Konya Governor’s Office said Friday’s raids were part of an investigation into a “plot” against a private holding company whose executive was convicted in the past of corruption and bribery.
The detainees are accused of membership in what the prosecutors call a “Fethullahist terrorist group” and of violating of the confidentiality of the investigation and the privacy of private lives and communication, according to the Governor’s Office.
Lawyers criticized the governor’s office statement, saying due to a secrecy order, even the lawyers for the detainees cannot access the case file and discern the nature of the accusations directed against their clients. They also criticized the statement for referring to a “Fethullahist terrorist organization” even though there is no such organization legally designated as a terrorist group.
One of the released individuals, lawyer Abidin Gürsoy, said following his release that no concrete accusation was directed against him during his interrogation. He said the given reason for his detention was “being a leader of a Fethullahist terrorist organization.”
“This accusation is just an insult and slander for me. Thank God, we have not been involved in theft or dishonesty. Those carrying out this investigation also know that there is no such a terrorist organization,” he said.
There is no court ruling in Turkey which designates the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.
Akın Zaimoğlu, who was deputy head of the Konya intelligence unit in 2008 and ordered the launch of the investigation into the Okyanus Group, was excluded from the investigation which was launched with claims that probe into Okyanus was a “conspiracy.”
Scores of police officers, including police chiefs, have been detained since a corruption scandal erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 implicating several then-ministers and people in the inner circle of President Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time. Erdoğan denied the claims of corruption and described the scandal as a plot against his government by foreign powers and the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.
Erdoğan infamously promised to take every measure to eliminate the “parallel structure,” including launching a “witch hunt.”
Thousands of police officials and officers, as well as judges and prosecutors were reassigned or removed in the aftermath of the Dec. 17, 2013 scandal. Many among them were later prosecuted and imprisoned pending trial on “parallel structure” charges.