Gülen Movement has been used to undermine Ergenekon trial

Nazli Ilicak
Nazli Ilicak

Date posted: February 5, 2012

‘Whenever new evidence surfaces related to Ergenekon, some people claim that that evidence was planted by Gülen sympathizers within the police force. This is quite unrealistic because important documents have been found in places where the police have never been able to access’


A veteran journalist has said that she tries to shed light on attempts to cover up and manipulate the trials concerning Ergenekon — a clandestine crime network that has alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government — OdaTV, the Hrant Dink murder and the Action Plan Against Reactionaryism.

Nazlı Ilıcak, author of the new book “Her Taşın Altında ‘The Cemaat’ mi Var?” (Is the “The Movement” Behind Everything?), which was published by Doğan Books, told Today’s Zaman for Monday Talk that those probes and trials were presented as if they were a conspiracy instigated by the Gülen movement through manipulative or misleading media reports.

“Whenever new evidence surfaces related to Ergenekon, some people claim that that evidence was planted by Gülen sympathizers within the police force,” she said, giving examples and adding that this is a systematic effort to undermine the Ergenekon case. She recalls that at a time when the probe into Ergenekon gained momentum, suspects who were detained as part of this case claimed pro-Gülen elements within the police had been behind the operations.

The Gülen movement (aka Hizmet movement) is a group of volunteers engaged in interfaith and intercultural dialogue inspired by the ideas of Fethullah Gülen, whose teachings promote mutual understanding and tolerance between cultures. Now residing in the US, Gülen has pioneered educational activities in a number of countries, along with efforts to promote intercultural and interfaith activities around the world.

Answering our questions, Ilıcak elaborated on the issue.

You have been in contact with Fethullah Gülen for years. At times you have been targeted for that, and there were attempts to call you “Fethullahçı” [someone who belongs to the Gülen community]. What is the current situation in that regard? Are you still targeted?

I have never been directly called a “Fethullahçı” because of my lifestyle. I’ve always said that I am sympathetic toward that movement. I see the movement’s actions as service to the country. This service has been through its schools aiming at breeding a youth which respects its cultural values. There are Christian students among the students of these schools. Turkish and the Turkish national anthem are taught in those schools. Ties have been established with many countries through education. I find it quite beneficial.

There are also Gülen schools abroad in many countries. You graduated from a foreign school. Do you find any similarities between the Gülen schools and the one you attended?

I graduated from the Notre Dame de Sion French High School in Turkey. Those foreign schools were established in Turkey as part of missionary activities, but that goal was later abandoned. We had a class on “moral values” in which we studied moral issues, and some of that was related to God. There were nuns in our school; they were also our teachers. There was a chapel in the school; our Christian friends were able to perform their religious duties there. I find some similarities between my school and the Gülen schools as moral values are stressed in both, in connection to God. Teachers in Gülen schools are amazing; they serve based on the principle of altruism. The schools have another function, and it concerns logistics, helping Turkish businesspeople establish their connections to engage in trade in the countries [hosting the schools]. These private schools are well financed. I find the schools quite beneficial, as I said, and I do not share the view that the Gülen community is under every stone. That is why I wrote this book.

Can you elaborate on that idea?

I am of the view that Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement have been used to undermine the Ergenekon case. Whenever new evidence surfaces related to Ergenekon, some people claim that that evidence was planted by Gülen sympathizers within the police force. This is quite unrealistic because important documents have been found in places where the police have never been able to access. For example, some documents were found under the floor tiles at the Gölcük Naval Command’s intelligence unit [seized in a December 2010 police operation following an email from an anonymous source claiming that naval officers were disposing of confidential documents at the Gölcük Naval Command’s intelligence unit. Police found a large number of CDs and documents labeled ‘confidential’ under the floor of the intelligence department, which they confiscated for examination. The documents allegedly contain plans to lay the groundwork for a coup d’état to bring down the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government]. In addition, the Cage Action Plan [an alleged plan by a group of members of the Naval Forces Command to intimidate the country’s non-Muslim population by assassinating some of their prominent figures, and in this way undermine the power of the ruling party; the plan was exposed through a police raid on the office of retired Maj. Levent Bektaş as part of a probe launched after the discovery of a large arms cache in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy neighborhood in 2009] is alleged by some to be the work of Gülen. In addition, there are the OdaTV documents; suspects in the case said the documents in question were sent through the use of a computer virus planted by pro-Gülen people! The court asked for an expert opinion in that regard.

‘Aydınlık brings out new names from police force’

Claims of a pro-Gülen organization in the police go back to 1992, right?

Yes, and I detailed that in my book. At the time, a cadet from the police academy claimed that he was expelled from the school because he did not cooperate with the pro-Gülen people there. That was the start of all allegations, and the prosecutor dismissed the proceedings in that regard.

Allegations were further investigated in later years, and State Security Court (DGM) prosecutor Talat Şavk also dismissed the proceedings in relation to that in 1998. Despite the court rulings, in 1999, [neo-nationalist magazine] Aydınlık started to publish stories claiming that the police force is controlled by pro-Gülen individuals — we now know that Aydınlık is put out by the Workers’ Party (İP), whose leader Doğu Perinçek is currently in jail as a key Ergenekon suspect — and as a result DGM prosecutor Nuh Mete Yüksel in 1999 opened an investigation, stating that the Gülen movement is a terrorist organization and its leader is Fethullah Gülen.

The case was closed in 2008 with Fethullah Gülen’s acquittal. Then, with the arrests of Veli Küçük, Kemal Kerinçsiz and Sevgi Erenerol [individuals who showed up at court to target and insult slain Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink when he was being prosecuted for “insulting Turkishness”] for their connection to Ergenekon — the three seem to be the subjects used in the operational arm of Ergenekon — Aydınlık started publishing a story claiming Gülen sympathizers were in the police force! This time, however, Aydınlık brought out new names from the police force.

One of them was Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who was accused by Aydınlık of manufacturing fake evidence against suspects in an Ergenekon-related trial. All of that shows us that there is an effort to undermine the Ergenekon case. Also, there seems to be a rivalry in the police force. Some of that might be linked to [former Eskişehir Police Chief] Hanefi Avcı, who is in jail [over links to the Revolutionary Headquarters, a leftist terrorist organization behind a deadly attack that took place in İstanbul in 2009]. Avcı argues [in his book “Haliç’te Yaşayan Simonlar” (Simons in the Golden Horn)] that the Ergenekon trial is a conspiracy by the government to silence its critics but at the same time acknowledges he has no proof to back these allegations up. He also argues that the police department is under the control of the Fethullah Gülen community.

‘Ruling powers always apply pressure on media’

This is reminiscent of a similar propaganda campaign during the Feb. 28 period in the ’90s, elaborated in your book.

Yes, during the Feb. 28 period [the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup in which the military overthrew a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party], military intelligence provided some information to the media, thereby using the media to undermine the government at the time. News stories that were run were, for example, in some school in İstanbul, two students were seen praying and photographed doing so. It later became clear that there were also websites to disseminate such propaganda. A similar tactic was used against the AK Party with the claim that it poses a threat to the secular republic. It was proven in time that propaganda related to claims of “reactionaryism” did not really work; people did not really believe it. Now we have claims of a “civilian dictatorship.” When the OdaTV investigation started, the claims got more outrageous.

Is this because the number of journalists who are in prison has increased due to arrests made as part of the investigation?

They say that there are about 100 journalists in jail, most of whom are from pro-Kurdish publications. In the past, there were more journalists jailed, but no one would count people from radical pro-Kurdish publications as “journalists” since it was not clear if they were journalists, as they were seen to have links to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]; and indeed, most of them have been convicted. There are only a few journalists in jail from the mainstream media. The recent debate related to journalists in jail, started with the detention of Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık [who shouted “Whoever touches him — Gülen — is doomed” when he was taken into custody]. Ruling powers have always applied pressures on the media in Turkey because of structural problems in the media. This has been mostly related to the powers of the media bosses who had been trying to get along well with the government in order to receive financial favors in their non-media businesses.

Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are not being prosecuted because they are critical of the government; there are many journalists who are critical of the government and they are not in jail. Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are being prosecuted because they are suspected of having links to Ergenekon. It seems that Hanefi Avcı, upon directions from OdaTV, wrote a book, and then connections were made with Şener and Şık. There are suspicions that this is an organized effort because the Ergenekon indictment shows a link between how the civil society and the media are going to be used to spread propaganda. If there are such links, this is not journalism. All of that is being investigated at this time.

‘Dink’s case used’

You also looked into the information provided in Şener’s book and wrote about it in your book. What did you find?

His book “Dink Cinayeti ve İstihbarat Yalanları” (Dink’s Murder and Intelligence Lies) was written not to uncover what is unknown in the murder of Hrant Dink but to serve the purposes of Avcı and Sabri Uzun [an ex-police intelligence bureau director, as they used it to create conflicts inside the intelligence bureau]. In the book, Şener tries to prove to what extent police chiefs Ramazan Akyürek and Ali Fuat Yılmazer were responsible in the murder of Dink and also claims that those police chiefs are from the Gülen community.

Indeed, we now know that the former head of the İstanbul branch of the intelligence bureau, Ahmet İlhan Güler, has some responsibility in the Dink murder. Dink’s lawyers revealed that the information on Dink’s murder was not properly evaluated by the intelligence unit of the İstanbul Police Department, that no serious work was done to use this information and that fake documents were issued to show that the information was assessed by the relevant units. It was Ahmet İlhan Güler who did not properly use the information and did not address the issue.

Despite the fact that the İstanbul intelligence unit argued that it had initiated an investigation after being briefed by Trabzon [police] on Feb. 17, 2006, a subsequent inspection revealed that the report was drafted after the murder. It was determined that the persons who signed the document were not present on the Anatolian side of the city on that date and that they were on an assignment for another investigation.

The İstanbul intelligence unit also did not conduct any study with regard to phone calls made by suspect Osman Hayal. However, it presented some computer printouts that indicated it had actually done so, but intelligence chief Ramazan Akyürek, based on IT work conducted at the center, noted that there was no log of information indicating that Hayal’s phone calls were being intercepted by the İstanbul intelligence unit. In response, the İstanbul intelligence unit argued that the log records were modified. Despite that, Hanefi Avcı says Ahmet İlhan Güler was sacked because the government wanted to put Ali Fuat Yılmazer in his place, and Şener accepts that thought as truth and uses it without question in his book.

Do you think keeping several journalists in jail pending trial is not right?

Turkey has a problem in that regard. Those who try to undermine the Ergenekon case use that problem. Arrest should be used exceptionally. Even though the number of people detained pending trial has been decreased in Turkey, we still have a problem in that regard. We should also not forget that there is the huge Ergenekon investigation, and the detention of high-ranking military officials, academics and journalists attracts attention. The government is trying to speed up the trials to make the detention periods as short as possible.

‘Gülen not US’s man’

Do you think the documents released by WikiLeaks prove Fethullah Gülen is not under the official protection of the United States, contrary to allegations being put forth?

Of course. I was also mentioned in those documents. There were problems in the past concerning Fethullah Gülen’s residence permit in the United States. US officials had doubts over whether to grant him a visa or not. The US consul at the time and I were in touch. I helped them come together with people from the Fethullah Gülen community. After that, US officials were convinced about the Gülen movement’s aims. We later saw in the documents released by WikiLeaks that the then US consul in İstanbul wrote to Washington about this. If Gülen were the US’s man, they would not have asked me about him.

Do you think he has plans to come back to Turkey?

I’d like to see him here, but he prefers not to come at this moment, as he is still being targeted, and the Gülen movement is being seen as the driving force behind some of the ongoing trials in Turkey that aim to cleanse the country of anti-democratic formations.

[PROFILE] Nazlı Ilıcak

A graduate of the Notre Dame de Sion French High School in Turkey, she studied political science at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She started her career in journalism with the Tercümadefan daily in 1974. Ilıcak was elected as a deputy from the Virtue Party (FP) in 1999. When the Constitutional Court closed down the party in 2001 for violating the principles of secularism, she was banned from politics for five years. She has written columns for several newspapers and frequently appears on political programs on television. She currently writes a column for the Sabah daily.

Source: Today's Zaman , February 5, 2012

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