Where are all those Big Brothers now?

Where are all those Big Brothers now?

No, this piece is not only about the Big Brothers (Abi in Turkish) and Big Sisters (Abla) of the secret network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of being behind the failed coup of July 15 in Turkey; it is also about the failing justice system in the country.

Writing this piece, I cannot help myself but mention some names that I know in person and feel sorry that they are in jail now. One of them is Kadri Gürsel, my dear friend and colleague for the last 30 years or so, who is also the president of the Turkish chapter of the International Press Institute (IPI) who is a columnist for daily Cumhuriyet and who was arrested on charges of spreading propaganda for terrorist organizations (ironically to help both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen network (FETÖ), which he has been standing against all through his career). Another colleague is Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief of the left-Kemalist Cumhuriyet. The third is writer and linguist Necmiye Alpay, a socialist who never hesitated to criticize me and other colleagues whenever we made a mistake in the use of Turkish; now the prosecutor is asking for life in prison for her, together with novelist Aslı Erdoğan for making PKK propaganda. And then there’s Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue. I neither share his political views, nor hesitated to criticize him and his party for failing to draw an unequivocal line between his party and the acts of terror of the PKK. On the other hand, I knew him as a young lawyer from Diyarbakır and we stood side by side for some time as defenders of human rights.

Demirtaş refused to testify before the court because he was refused the chance to see an indictment against him in advance, his lawyer said Nov. 17.

I accuse the Turkish judicial system on all premature arrests and also for failing to deliver justice in general.

From the confessions of a top judge, Ahmet Hamsici, published by Hürriyet for the last two days, it is possible for readers to confirm what they have been reading and hearing in terms of the level of corruption in the Turkish judicial system. Hamsici says in his testimony that in order to have a reduced penalty according to the repentance law that in 2010, following the referendum on constitutional amendments of Sep. 12, 2010, the Gülenist network in the judiciary demanded to have “at least 140 positions” out of a total of 160 in the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) from the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) on instructions of Gülen himself, but could get “only 107.”

Hamsici was an active member of the HSYK then, which was chaired by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin of then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government.

In October 2012, I wrote a couple of articles for the Radikal newspaper for which I was working as the Ankara bureau chief. In those pieces, I shared with readers that following the constitutional referendum, the Gülenists started to “share the posts with the government” in the judiciary. I also said that “ABİs were coming.” That was an allegory: according to the new order after the referendum, three new directorates had been established in the Justice Ministry and according to my sources, the names of the judges to be appointed to those posts had already been negotiated. By coincidence their first names had the initials, A, B and İ, coincidentally making that word “abi” – big brother.

The Justice Ministry denied the story and I got some hard time for writing that. But in the same month, Ahmet Hamsici (A, yes the same Ahmet Hamsici that has now confessed to the network), Birol Erdam (B) and İbrahim Okur (İ) were appointed with the minister’s signature to those three posts that I had claimed.

It was that heavily Gülenist-dominated HSYK structure which appointed prosecutors and judges to controversial court cases like Ergenekon, “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer), Military Espionage, OdaTV and others, and it was that heavily Gülenist-dominated Court of Appeals that approved the life sentences for generals, professors and journalists. Some of them were later were proved to be fabricated by pro-Gülen police officers; now most of the charges have been dropped and the defendants are free.

Now Hamsici has been released from jail after his 31-page confession about the secret Gülenist network to which he said he joined in 1977 when he was a high school student. İbrahim Okur is in jail, arrested as a member of the Gülen network. Birol Erdem, after serving as the undersecretary to Justice Minister Sadullah Erdin, was taken from that position by the new minister, Bekir Bozdağ and is currently a chief adviser to Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. In the judicial backstage, there is word that Erdem “changed sides” before the July 15 coup attempt, following the graft probes of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which were denounced by Erdoğan as a coup attempt to overthrow the AK Parti government.

In an interview for CNN Türk in 2012, while answering questions of Hande Fırat – who had the game-changing FaceTime interview with Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt – about the rumors about the Gülenist network in the judiciary and the police, Bozdağ said: “No way. How could such a thing be thought of?”