PM Erdoğan blames Gülen Movement for 'convicting innocent people' in coup plot trials
AA PhotoTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for the conviction of hundreds of military officers in the recent coup plot case.
“It is being revealed that they have sent people to prison solely for not thinking like them. It is now surfacing how innocent people were convicted under the appearance of fighting against [military] coups,” Erdoğan said during the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group meeting on June 24.
His comments came in the wake of a Constitutional Court ruling for the retrial of the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case. This ruling lead to the release of 230 convicted suspects, including retired general and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Engin Alan.
However, Erdoğan slammed Alan’s reaction following his release from jail, arguing the AKP government facilitated their release by pushing through changes in a constitutional reform package in a 2010 referendum.
The constitutional amendment allowed for the possibility of individual applications to the Turkish Constitutional Court, making an application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the last resort.
“If those changes were not made, they would have still been in prison. Would they have the same result if they went to the ECHR? No. But they have obtained this possibility by being able to apply individually,” said Erdoğan, slamming MHP head Devlet Bahçeli for having campaigned for voting against the amendments.
Erdoğan also rejected claims that the grip on state institutions by Gülen’s followers, particularly the police and judiciary, increased during AKP rule.
“The claim that those [Gülen’s followers] have developed during our period is unfounded. When you look to the Sept. 12  coup, you will see that they had accumulated power then. You will also see them during the Feb. 28 [1997 process]. You will see that they accumulated power from some international circles and intelligence agencies,” Erdoğan said.
The government has accused the Gülen movement for orchestrating the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, 2013 corruption probes against ex-ministers and businessmen close to the AKP, with Erdoğan even denouncing the existence of a “parallel state.”
Massive purges were staged against several government institutions, particularly the police department and the judiciary with thousands of police officers, prosecutors, judges and bureaucrats either relocated or dismissed.
Erdoğan also accused the Gülen movement of trying to cover the prosecution on the wiretapping of his office and his home.
Touching on the $4.5 million found in shoeboxes at the home of the state-run Halkbank’s former manager Süleyman Aslan, Erdoğan returned the accusations, claiming the movement had billions in their possession.
“I am speaking for those who mention the shoeboxes all of the time. Neither billions of euros, nor billions of dollars can fit [in shoeboxes]. They can only fit in safes. First prove that. What you have done is obvious, this is why you escaped and went [abroad],” Erdoğan said.
The prime minister had repeatedly defended Aslan, claiming the cash found in his shoeboxes was money meant for charity organizations.
Regarding the presidential elections, Erdoğan confirmed the AKP would announce its candidate on July 1, adding that a campaign across the nation would be launched. However, he once more hinted about his own candidacy, stressing that the AKP would not be weak, “Whoever the candidate was.”
“What is important is not who leads the AKP, but what the AKP is,” Erdoğan said.