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21.09.2015 19:23 News >> Avcı Arrested Over Columns On Alleged Ties Between Tawhid-Salam And MİT

Avcı Arrested Over Columns On Alleged Ties Between Tawhid-Salam And MİT

Gültekin Avcı, a prosecutor-turned-journalist who specializes in intelligence issues, was arrested on Sunday night on charges of "establishing a terrorist organization" and "espionage" for his series of columns addressing alleged links between the Iran-backed terrorist network Tawhid-Salam and Turkey's spy agency.

Gültekin Avcı, a prosecutor-turned-journalist who specializes in intelligence issues, was arrested on Sunday night on charges of "establishing a terrorist organization" and "espionage" for his series of columns addressing alleged links between the Iran-backed terrorist network Tawhid-Salam and Turkey's spy agency.
The seven articles that Avcı wrote between 2013 and 2014 on the Tawhid-Salam terrorist group are considered evidence of his alleged crimes.
Fikret Duran, the lawyer representing Avcı, told Today's Zaman on Monday that he has appealed Avcı's arrest at the 3rd Penal Court of Peace.
However, the detention period and arrest have been marked by a series of unlawful acts as Avcı was deprived of the right to testify to Prosecutor İrfan Fidan since his detention on Friday and Fidan referred him to the 2nd Penal Court of Peace for arrest on Sunday.
Apart from this, Judge Durmuş Karaçalı, who ruled for Avcı's arrest on Sunday night, previously launched legal action against him on the grounds that Avcı criticized the Penal Courts of Peace in one of his columns on the Bugün daily. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once described the courts as "project courts." They have become the center of criticism for turning into a mechanism for punishing anyone who disagree with Erdoğan and the government's practices and views.
A judge who has already had a legal dispute with Avcı cannot be expected to issue a fair and objective verdict, as also noted in the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK). According to the CMK, if the suspect/defendant and the judge have had a dispute prior to the case, then the defendant is given the right to ask for a new judge. Despite this, Judge Karaçalı rejected Avcı's request for a new judge and ruled to arrest Avcı, marking another controversial implementation.
Avcı is also accused of "plotting to bring down interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government" through the ideas expressed in his columns.
Though Avcı was arrested over seven columns in which he mentioned the investigation into the Iran-backed Tawhid-Salam terrorist organization had uncovered an Iranian espionage network that was working against the national security interests of Turkey.
Is it a crime to term an organization a terrorist group if it is legally defined as such?

The Supreme Court of Appeals decided that Tawhid-Salam is a terrorist organization upon the conclusion of a three-year-long investigation sanctioned by three prosecutors and approved by over 20 judges at various stages of the probe. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by a local court categorizing Tawhid-Salam as a terrorist group engaged in espionage against Turkey's security interests.
Furthermore, apart from the court ruling on Tawhid-Salam, there are allegations that National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan collaborated with Iranian intelligence. A top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) document dated April 13, 2013, published by the German magazine Der Spiegel on its website in 2014 revealed that the US had been concerned about Fidan's Iranian connections, shedding more light on the Turkish government being very intolerant of anyone who points out the alleged links between MİT and the Iranian intelligence network.
The former head of the İstanbul Police Department's Counterterrorism Unit, Yurt Atayün, who was put behind bars along with several police chiefs in 2014 after they uncovered Tawhid-Salam's espionage operations targeting Turkey, said in his defense statement that the government is covering up the most comprehensive espionage investigation in the history of the republic and that this investigation from May 2014 had implicated senior officials working closely with Iranian operatives.
While in detention Avcı was subjected to maltreatment and even torture as he was not allowed to use the toilet for many hours and even prevented from praying. Furthermore, his lawyer, Duran, was not informed about the justification for Avcı's arrest.
Meanwhile, the court released pending trial four of the seven members of the police department who were detained along with Avcı, but ruled to arrest the remaining three. Together with Avcı, the three police officers were sent to Silivri Prison.
Speaking with Today's Zaman regarding the accusations leveled against his client and the unlawfulness that marked the arrest, Duran said Avcı is an expert on intelligence matters, Iran and related matters, so writing on such matters is only natural.
Avcı also noted in his defense before the judge that he is not the only person to write columns on Tawhid-Salam, citing other media outlets and TV channels that did the same, including the Hürriyet daily, the state-run Turkish Ratio and Television Corporation (TRT), and the pro-government Sabah and Habertürk dailies. These media outlets ran a series of stories in 2012 about a Turkish official delivering intelligence documents to Iranian operatives along with video footage of allegedly espionage.
However, government-led pressure is not only limited to police chiefs, officers and journalists who bring Tawhid-Salam and its extensions inside the Turkish government to the agenda. Thirty-two judges and 22 prosecutors were also targeted after the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) began investigating them; 49 of them were removed from their posts.
As part of his defense before the judge, Avcı said there is not even a shred of evidence in the investigation file that justifies the accusations leveled against him, underlining that his columns on the Tawhid-Salam investigation and its details cannot be considered a crime because the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) prioritizes the public interest when it comes to the revelation of state secrets by journalists.
Duran accused the jurists who ordered the detention and later arrest of Avcı of conspiring against the people, in reference to Avcı, adding: "How can a prosecutor refuse to take Avcı's testimony? A person who is accused of being a member of a terrorist organization is in your hands and you refuse to interrogate him. This is an obvious example showing the dire situation the Turkish judicial system is in."
Duran said several pieces that covered the Tawhid-Salam investigation and that were published in other media outlets were submitted to the court to show the double-standard being employed against his client. "My client is being tried for his journalism, an activity that is not defined as a crime in the Turkish Penal Code [TCK].”
"Judge Karaçalı asked 15 times why Avcı wrote about nikah mut'ah, the so-called temporary marriage that is currently used to cover up extramarital relations by abusing the principles of Islam on the matter. Also, there are claims that the police carried out operations targeting the Tawhid-Salam terrorist group after Avcı wrote about it. However, the organization was already designated a terrorist group by then. So how can carrying out an operation into Tawhid-Salam constitute an offense and how can such a link be created between the operations and Avcı's columns?" Duran asked.
Appearing before the court, Avcı defended himself saying he was not the only journalist who discussed the Tawhid-Salam terrorist network and its extensions in Turkey in his columns for Bugün.
Avcı's lawyer said on Saturday that his client was left hungry for many hours and held under unhealthy conditions. Stating that it was unnecessary to extend the detention period for Avcı as he will testify to prosecutors, not the police, Duran said the authorities extended his detention period for another 24 hours on Saturday.
The investigation into Tawhid-Salam was launched on April 8, 2011, but was dropped in July 2014 by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office. The move was widely seen as an attempt to cover up a highly sensitive probe that had allegedly implicated senior government officials.
More than 115 police officers and senior police chiefs were detained in the early hours of July 22, 2014, on charges of spying and illegally wiretapping key government figures as part of the investigation into the Tawhid-Salam group, which was blocked by the government.
Reactions pour in after Avcı's arrest

Kamil Maman, a journalist, tweeted on Monday in reaction to the Avcı's arrest, writing: "Gültekin Avcı is considered a 'terrorist' and having a 'pro-coup mindset' for writing about Iranian operatives. Habertürk, Sabah, TRT and Hürriyet also run stories on the issue. They also have a pro-coup mindset."
Avcı's son İsmail Avcı also rebuked the arrest of his father, saying: "My father told me that being an honest man in this country has a heavy price. We'll pay this price dearly. Let those who don't have any price attached to their practices worry about the rest."
Former Judge Ali Fahri Kayacan also posted a tweet on Sunday and criticized Judge Karaçalı's rejection of the request for a new judge. "The judge who will decide on Avcı's arrest previously filed a criminal complaint against him. This judge should recuse himself to ensure a fair trial."
In another tweet, Kayacan wrote: "I don't know Avcı apart from appearing together on a TV program. However, I cannot accept him being subjected to unlawfulness."
Speaking with Today's Zaman on the issue on Monday, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Levent Gök stressed that the government categorizes criticism of the AK Party as a "terrorism offense."
"A terrorism offense requires resorting to violence, according to its internationally agreed-upon definition. However, the AKP [AK Party] first established a pro-government judiciary and then makes fake accusations to muzzle dissent. The arrest of Avcı is an obvious instance of this. He is a victim of a pro-government judge and prosecutor," Gök noted.
Mehmet Kasap, the chairman of the Law and Life Foundation, lambasted the arrest of Avcı and told Today's Zaman on Monday that it is an explicit instance of the violation of the right to a fair trial as he was prevented from testifying to the prosecutor and referred to court for arrest.
"Moreover, the judge who ruled to arrest Avcı had a legal dispute with Avcı. At this point, the HSYK should step in since [Judge] Karaçalı rejected the request for a new judge. The HSYK should remove Karaçalı and launch disciplinary proceedings for violating the relevant article in the CMK. Unless it incites to violence, being able to express any idea is a must in a democracy. Fabricating offenses means the government is abusing the judiciary, using it as a punishing stick against dissidents," Kasap pointed out.

ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ / GÜLTEN ÜSTÜNTAĞ / ISTANBUL (Cihan/Today's Zaman)



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