Erdoğan escalates elimination of Gülenists from state

Erdoğan escalates elimination of Gülenists from state

The Turkish government announced mass shifts and removals from office in 11 ministries, including the Treasury, on May 2. The changes involve at least 50 high rank public servants and a much greater number from the lower ranks.

It is not clear whether all those removed from their posts are sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen, the moderate Islamist cleric living in the U.S., who used to be a close ally of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan but who is now an arch enemy. But that is both the perception in society and the perception given by the government. When asked on Friday, Erdoğan reiterated that the government was determined to eradicate the “parallel structure” within the state (an expression Erdoğan uses for Gülenists). He said security teams had identified the names of those members employed in the Prime Ministry headquarters one by one, and added that the work was about to be completed in the Foreign Ministry.

In 2012, it was announced that two bugs had been found in Erdoğan’s home office, while in March 2014 recordings were leaked from the tapping of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s office during a secret security meeting on Syria with ranking military and intelligence officers. This is considered an act of espionage by the government.

On April 30, an Ankara prosecutor started a probe against Gülen over the establishment of a network to undermine the government. On the same day, another prosecutor started a probe against an undisclosed number of people over the secret transferring of data from the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to an undisclosed address (or addresses) in the U.S. That is also regarded as espionage, as the TİB is in charge of all legal telephone wiretaps. The TİB is now considered by the government to be a government agency infiltrated by Gülenists.

On May 1, the National Security Board (MGK) had its second meeting in two months, during which the methods of eliminating Gülenists from the state apparatus, especially from the judiciary, were discussed, along with other topics.

Then, on the afternoon of May 2, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) decided to open probes against three prosecutors and a judge from Istanbul. One of the prosecutors is Zekeriya Öz, who was the specially authorized prosecutor of anti-military cases such as Ergenekon and Balyoz. The other, Celal Kara, is the prosecutor of the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe, the largest ever such probe in Turkey, which prompted Erdoğan to remove four ministers from the Cabinet. The third is Muammer Akkaş, who had started the Dec. 25 corruption operation. The judge Süleyman Karaçöl had frozen the assets of those who were arrested in relation to those corruption allegations.

Following the Erdoğan government’s changing of the HSYK law that allowed more political control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, almost all have been removed from their posts, the freeze on assets has been lifted, and all those arrested have been released. In addition, on May 2 an Istanbul court dropped all charges against a group of suspects in the graft probe, including the son of the former urbanization minister.

Since the Dec. 17 graft probe, hundreds of prosecutors and judges and around 2,500 police officers who the government believes to be close to Gülen have been removed from their posts, and it seems that it is not going to stop there.