Caretaker AK Party gov’t criticized for police operation against youth association

Police raided a youth association founded by former Balıkesir Governor Ahmet Turhan that is giving Quran lessons to 60 children, based on
Police raided a youth association founded by former Balıkesir Governor Ahmet Turhan that is giving Quran lessons to 60 children, based on "reasonable suspicion." (Photo: Cihan)

Date posted: July 3, 2015


The interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been criticized by opposition party members for a police raid on Thursday on the headquarters of a youth association in Balıkesir, in what is considered to be yet another government-orchestrated operation against institutions connected with the faith-based Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement, inspired by the views of the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The operation was conducted on the basis of “reasonable suspicion.”

With the law passed in December 2014, the threshold for the burden of proof that is required for obtaining a search warrant was reduced from strong and concrete evidence to mere reasonable suspicion. The police are not only able to easily search any individual, home or vehicle but also can easily seize the property of all so-called dissidents on the grounds that they committed a crime against the government.

The Yağmur Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Association, which was founded in 2013 by Ahmet Turhan, the Balıkesir governor of the time, has been giving Quran lessons to 60 children during Ramadan. Turhan stated during the launch of the association that it sets an example for the education of young people, saying, “Institutions like the Yağmur Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Association should increase in number.”

Officers from the Balıkesir Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau conducted an hour-long search of the association’s headquarters. An operating ledger, a receipt and other books belonging to the association were impounded as evidence.

The police were criticized by a number of people for raiding an association known for organizing events to keep young people away from bad habits like drugs, alcohol and smoking, in the holy month of Ramadan.

İsmail Ok, Balıkesir Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) mayor, criticized the government’s attitude, saying “Unfortunately, the government is taking revenge on the association and using its authority for wrong purposes. They will be held accountable for the injustices they committed by means of the law of “reasonable suspicion.”

Republican People’s Party (CHP) Balıkesir deputy Namık Havutça stated that this kind of attitude towards associations is not acceptable. “We do not accept the government’s treatment of associations as terrorist organizations. It does not fit with the improved Turkey of the 21st century.”

Yağmur Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Association President Musa Baydar emphasized that the association has been serving the youth of Balıkesir for three years. “Young people are under the threat of hazards like drugs, alcohol and smoking. Our association aims at keeping the young people of Balıkesir away from those hazards. We are teaching the Quran to 60 young members of our association in Ramadan.” Baydar expressed his disappointment about the police raid, saying, “We felt both strange and sad that a Quran teaching association is raided by the police in the holy month of Ramadan.”

Similar operations took place in the offices of civil society organizations, charity foundations and education centers established by people close to the Hizmet movement in June.

The operations are widely believed to be an act of retribution by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration for a corruption investigation that went public in December 2013. Erdoğan claims the Gülen movement tried — and failed — to carry out a coup attempt against him and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through the graft investigation which became public knowledge on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, implicating former Cabinet ministers, prominent businessmen close to the administration and members of Erdoğan’s family.

Source: Today's Zaman , July 03, 2015

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