As the Turkish government acknowledges an overdose in post-coup probes…

As the Turkish government acknowledges an overdose in post-coup probes…

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Aug. 8 that the government would establish “crisis desks” in order to hear complaints about “unfair” detentions, suspensions and dismissals from office in the probes following the bloody failed coup attempt of July 15.

The move comes amid criticism inside and outside Turkey that the probes pursuing followers of the U.S.-based Islamist scholar Fethullah Gülen, accused of being the mastermind behind the coup attempt, have morphed into a wider witch-hunt. There are rising criticisms saying the detentions and dismissals are going far beyond the coup attempt and suspected Gülenists who might have been linked to the plot, and have started to affect many unrelated opponents of the government - from leftist teachers to lawyers.

Indeed, even President Tayyip Erdoğan himself has said the media should stop wildly labelling people “Gülenists” at will - a tendency particularly seen in pro-government media and social media accounts. The word in Ankara is that Erdoğan made that comment after hearing that a professor of medicine in Ankara’s Hacettepe University Hospital was dismissed based on slander by two jealous colleagues.

“Slander” is actually the word used by social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to refute a report in the pro-government daily Sabah on Aug. 8, which had claimed that four CHP deputies had visited Gülen where he lives in Pennsylvania before the 2015 election.

Categorically denying the claim, Kılıçdaroğlu said he had never asked any of his MPs to visit Gülen, and after talking to them himself he also understood that they did not go of their own accord. He said they would now open libel cases against the columnist and newspaper in question, demanding that they prove their claim.

The CHP head said the claim amounted to slanderous “manipulation” aiming to associate the party with “those affairs” - implying Gülenist links.

There is also a debate going on within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) regarding party members with Gülenist ties. After all, Gülen and his followers in the state apparatus were long a close ally of the AK Parti until around 2012-13. Hürriyet writer Abdulkadir Selvi on Sept. 7 wrote about the internal AK Parti debate regarding the Gülenists, which raises the question of whether the government is preparing to slow down the investigations. 

This may be an acknowledgment that the dose of the post-coup attempt investigation up to now might have been heavier than originally intended. There are indeed concerns about the possible dilution of the probes if they are spread too thin, “burning the wet together with the dry,” as the Turkish proverb goes. 

The comparison I made (HDN, Sept. 8, 2016) between the current situation and the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases of a few years ago was found unfair both by people tried - and victimized - in those cases and Gülen sympathizers. Fair trials, distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty, are needed in order to increase the quality of democracy in Turkey, and to truly honor the defeat of the July 15 coup attempt, which was achieved by the will of the people and the parliament.