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Former Turkish police chief's book receives conflicting reactions in media

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/30/2010 12:00:00 AM |

A book by a former police chief and high-ranking intelligence operative that claims a religious community is infiltrating the state is both praised and condemned in the Turkish media. The supporters of the book appreciate the author’s courage and vouch for his validity, while criticizers say his claims lack the necessary evidence to be taken seriously

The controversial book “Haliç’te Yaşayan Simonlar: Dün Devlet Bugün Cemaat” (‘Devotee’ Residents of Haliç: Yesterday State, Today Religious Congregation) by former Eskişehir Police Chief Hanefi Avcı has received mixed reactions in the Turkish media.

The book allegedly exposes the infiltration of the police force and other state departments by the religious Fethullah Gülen movement. The book also denies there is evidence that the murder of journalist Hrant Dink was organized and ordered by higher-up figures and questions the validity of coup investigations that have surfaced in recent years.

Avcı was a civil servant considered sympathetic to the Gülen community, which made the book more of a surprise. “I am not against the activities of the [Gülen] community. It is beneficial to society, especially with its activities in education. I am against them investigating crimes as they come into [positions of power in the] police and judiciary,” he told the private news channel NTV.

Critics of the book mostly focused on evaluating the book as a memoir that does not rely on documents and evidence. The author told the daily Milliyet last week that he has evidence to back up his claims but did not include it in the book. “The matters I wrote about are those that can be easily proven if investigated by authorities. The government can obtain the documents about each case from their sources if it wants.” Avcı also stated in other interviews that he had approached several related authorities over the past few years but his efforts had produced no results.

Şamil Tayyar, columnist for the daily Star, came up with a more detailed critique of the book in his recent columns and challenged Avcı to a debate on live TV. Tayyar said Avcı criticizes the validity of the Ergenekon investigation today but in 1997 he thought Ergenekon suspects Veli Küçük and İbrahim Şahin were affiliated with the “deep state,” as mentioned in testimony of his to a parliamentary commission. Tayyar also examined other claims by Avcı, such as the claim that Sabri Uzun’s removal from his position as head of police intelligence was related to the Gülen community. “However, Yaşar Büyükanıt [former chief of General Staff, 2006-2008] made a statement saying he had Uzun removed from duty by complaining about him to the prime minister after his retirement,” Tayyar wrote.

Ismet Berkan, editor-in-chief for the daily Radikal, wrote that claims of the Gülen community infiltrating the police force are nothing new and have been discussed for the past two decades. Avcı’s claims that the infiltrators are being led by a civilian, however, are something else. “It means even high-ranking cops are receiving orders from and reporting to a civilian [Kozanlı Ömer] on the outside.” Berkan says this accusation is as big as it is easy to reveal.

Mehmet Baransu from the daily Taraf, the journalist who has broken most of the coup allegation stories in recent years, said Avcı wrote the book to hurt the ruling Justice and Democracy Party, or AKP, because he did not receive the promotion he wanted. Baransu said he would interview Avcı last weekend but the interview, if it happened, did not make it to print.

Ruşen Çakır from the daily Vatan has been writing a series about the book and is convinced enough of the book’s importance to claim it will change everything in Turkey. He pointed out how fond the Gülen community was of Avcı (the name means “hunter” in Turkish) before the book and how now they are after him. “The fact that Avcı may have written this book in reaction to being transformed from hunter to hunted, meaning now he is hunting his hunters while they are on the hunt, should not overshadow the critique of the system he has made with his 32 years of experience.”

Çakır said he wrote in 2007 that the power struggle in Turkey has three competitors: the leading administration, the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, and the Gülen community. Çakır said a high-ranking AKP member told him: “Both sides are running a vicious trench war and both of them want to use us as sandbags.” According to Çakır, Avcı’s book confirms that after three years, there are now “two deep states” in Turkey, the latecomer being composed of Gülen community members.

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