“Parallel structure” is a veiled reference that Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials use to refer to members of the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
The AK Party, which has been fighting a major corruption and bribery investigation since mid-December of last year that implicates several of its former ministers and incumbent officials, claims that the probe is the work of the “parallel structure” with the intention of overthrowing the Turkish government. According to the party, the “parallel structure” nested within the police force and the judiciary carried out illegal wiretaps. The party has, however, provided no evidence to support this allegation.
Earlier this year, claims emerged in the media that police officials in the Diyarbakır Police Department who are members of the Hizmet movement carried out a number of illegal wiretaps since 2008, but erased the recordings recently when they feared that they would be caught. The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the claims.
The truth was revealed earlier this month when a local court hearing a separate case needed the recordings of some conversations wiretapped by the Diyarbakır Police Department. A prosecutor involved in the case asked the police department to submit those recordings to the court, but the police said the recordings had already been erased. When the prosecutor asked the department how they could have been erased when by law they are supposed to be kept for a specific period of time, the department said that they had been erased by members of the “parallel structure.” The prosecutor, unconvinced by the police department’s response, began to examine the circumstances surrounding the whereabouts of the recordings. He questioned several police officers from the department and found that the recordings had been erased on the order of Police Chief Halis Böğürcü, who was appointed head of the Diyarbakır Police Department in early January.
The AK Party government, frustrated by the corruption and bribery investigation, was quick to respond by reassigning public officials en masse. As many as 20,000 police officers and hundreds of members of the judiciary as well as dozens of bureaucrats in public institutions have been reassigned since Dec. 17, 2013, when the graft investigation became public. The fact that no investigation was conducted before those officials were reassigned and that most of the officials were not given any explanation for their reassignment has led to comments that the government is carrying out a witch hunt against its critics.
As many as 1,500 police officers at the Diyarbakır Police Department have been reassigned since Dec. 17, 2013.
Some of the wiretapped recordings erased on Böğürcü’s orders include conversations legally recorded by the Diyarbakır Police Department as part of investigations into radical religious groups and criminal groups engaged in drug smuggling.