Political witch hunt continues in the north

By Kyriacos Kiliaris
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) search for supporters of the ousted US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, seen as the mastermind behind the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, has turned into a real witch hunt.

A total of 11 people have appeared before a judge over the past four months in operations that have taken place in secrecy, with dozens of people being interrogated. Six were arrested just last week in back-to-back stings in the Famagusta district. Four of those arrested were taken into custody on charges of possessing books propagating positions of the Gulenist movement.

They were charged with crimes against the regulations and social order in the north, as they were found “in possession of propaganda material of an illegal terrorist organisation”.

The latest arrest took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning in Geungeli (Gonyeli), where the suspect was caught burning books belonging to the Gulenist movement.

Amongst those arrested are a police officer, two imams and two petty officers of the Turkish army, while, during investigations, it was made known that police suspect there are 30 purported meeting places of the Gulenist “terrorist organisation” in the north of Cyprus.

During operations, houses have been raided and searched, with books, laptops, mobile phones and memory sticks being confiscated.

Apart from the people arrested in Cyprus in connection to the Gulenist movement, the head of the north’s religious affairs, Dr. Talip Atalay, was arrested in Diyarbakir, Turkey, where he was visiting family. He was detained for three days and released after questioning, Turkish police said.

Meanwhile, a series of political parties from the opposition as well as members of the legal profession are raising their voices against what they have also begun to call a witch hunt. Opposition parties are wary of the fact that people are being arrested over the possession of books which present ideas.

On the other hand, lawyers are also worried about the fact that none of the results have actually led to a trial taking place or anyone being dismissed from the office they hold, as Hasan Yucelen, a well-known lawyer in the north of Cyprus, told reporters.

Yucelen said police have been talking for months of an ongoing investigation. But no one has been put on trial and convicted for participating in the Gulenist movement.

He added that if a connection existed between those taken into custody and the organisation, to get on with the job, if not to drop the case. “This has turned into a witch hunt. People working in the same (public) departments do not trust each other anymore,” Yucelen said.

Akin Sait, an ex-attorney general, said it was not clear if the people arrested will be put in the dock. “It will all depend on the Attorney General, while it is not clear if they will be put on trial here or in Turkey.”

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