Turkey’s arrest of journalists only helps FETÖ

Turkey’s arrest of journalists only helps FETÖ

I have been writing about the indictments in the July 2016 coup attempt case and the ongoing trials for many months. This analysis generally focuses on actual events, based on solid evidence that is almost impossible to refute.

When analyzing accusations directed at a suspect, one is operating in a relatively secure environment in which concrete, convincing and tangible evidence can be parsed. (Of course, there are some suspects who are seen in the photographs of the coup but whose participation remains uncertain.)

In a sense, there is a close resemblance between the coup case and the case into employees of daily Cumhuriyet accused of “supporting the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).” The Cumhuriyet case is also like a “combined vessel,” which concerns the broader question of justice in Turkey.

For this reason, the Cumhuriyet case has garnered a lot of international attention and functions as a kind of touchstone in terms of the functioning of the judicial system in Turkey. As a result, many people both domestically and internationally have developed ideas about the judicial system in Turkey based on this trial. 

If you consider the judiciary in Turkey as a “brand,” the perception of a flaw in any activity under this brand tarnishes the brand’s overall reputation quite badly.

Our colleagues from daily Cumhuriyet - Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık and Emre İper - were once again not released at the hearing held at Silivri Prison in Istanbul on Sept. 19. 

At a time when many circles in Turkey were trying hard to gain the trust, support and protection of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, Gürsel always maintained a critical attitude against this sect. He was never afraid of its power.

Despite this personal record, Gürsel is today accused of supporting FETÖ. The “evidence” for this is that among those who sent SMS messages to his mobile phone were users of ByLock, an encrypted smartphone messaging application said to have been used by FETÖ members. So Gürsel is connected with FETÖ just like you are connected to any store sending sales campaign messages to your mobile phone. 

If receiving mobile phone messages from ByLock users can be accepted on its own as criminal evidence then there would be no one left outside of jail in Turkey. And those who would be most affected by this situation are members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), from the top to the bottom, especially considering the close friendly relations between these two before the December 2015 corruption cases.

What’s more, keeping individuals like Gürsel in jail on accusations that he supports FETÖ only weakens the legitimacy and credibility of the struggle that must be carried out against this criminal organization. The ones who benefit most from this situation are the real members of this organization.

As long as the Cumhuriyet case and other similar cases continue, the interest of the international community will be distracted from the FETÖ members who were caught in the act of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. 

It is not surprising that news about Cumhuriyet and the violations of fundamental rights take a larger space in the foreign media than the news about the coup trials.

Overall, this whole situation only lowers the pressure on FETÖ. The perception that all trials in Turkey are carried out with the same understanding as the Cumhuriyet case must come as a relief to the real coup plotters.

If you expect others to respect the truths that are important to you, first you must yourself respect the truth. If you want the outside world to respect the concrete facts you come up with and agree with you in these issues, first you must behave with a conscience, not aggrieving Gürsel and his friends with frankly surreal accusations.