The Human Rights Watch’s latest world report states that there is no evidence to prove the charges of “terrorism” held against the Gülent movement, which is inspired by the teachings of prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
“Prosecutions of journalists, judges, prosecutors and police for membership of an alleged ‘Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization’ were ongoing at time of writing, although there is no evidence to date that the Gülen movement has engaged in violence or other activities that could reasonably be described as terrorism,” the HRW report reads.
The report titled “World Report 2016: ‘Politics of Fear’ Threatens Rights” was released on Wednesday morning in İstanbul.
Giving examples of the government-led persecution against the movement’s followers and companies close to the movement, the HRW report refers to police raids against the İpek Media group, including its TV stations and newspapers, two days after the government had appointed trustees to run the parent company, Koza İpek Holding in October 2015. Saying that the government claims that the Koza İpek group is supportive of Gülen and has effectively seized the company’s assets, the HRW also states, “The government similarly moved against the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, known for its support for the Gülen movement, by ending distribution of its TV channels on the state-owned Turksat satellite dish distribution platform.”
The report also points to decreasing judicial independence in Turkey under the ruling Justice and Development Part (AK Party) government. The report reads: “Long-standing defects in Turkey’s justice system include threats to judicial independence, a pattern of ineffective investigation into abuses by security forces and other state actors, excessively long proceedings, and politically motivated prosecutions.”
Pointing to legal proceedings launched against the police and judicial members deemed as being close to the Gülen movement following a major corruption scandal in December 2013, the HRW went on to state: “The AK Party government in 2015 continued efforts to purge the police and judiciary of alleged supporters of the Gülen movement. During 2015, prosecutors, judges, and police officers with perceived links to the Gülen movement were jailed and charged with plotting against the government and membership of a terrorist organization. The main evidence being cited against judges and prosecutors at the time of writing was decisions taken in the course of their professional duties rather than any evidence of criminal activity.”
The movement has been targeted by the ruling AK party since a Dec. 17, 2013 corruption scandal that implicated various high-ranking government officials. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government. In May 2014, Erdoğan publicly advised AK Party supporters not to send their children to schools affiliated with the movement, vowing, “We will not even give water [to the movement’s members].” He has also said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with any links to the movement. Erdoğan has also ordered officials in AK Party-run municipalities to seize land and buildings belonging to the Gülen movement by any means necessary. The movement strongly rejects the allegations and no indictment has been brought against it.