Sympathy for FETÖ not same as membership: Supreme Court of Appeals
The Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) has ruled that being a sympathizer of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) does not amount to being a member of it, in a legal case in the southwestern province of Burdur.
According to the court, the fact that local agriculture official Hakan Özcan was sympathetic to FETÖ does not constitute sufficient evidence to arrest him over being a member of the group.
Özcan was sentenced to six years and three months in jail in August 2016 over being a member FETÖ, widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, with the court citing several of his activities as evidence of “membership of an illegal group.”
Phone calls he made in 2013 with a local leader of FETÖ, participation in meetings of Gülen sympathizers, subscription to daily newspaper Zaman, which was shut down over its links to FETÖ, and sending his daughter to shuttered school linked to FETÖ, were cited as evidence in his case.
After his conviction Özcan appealed to a regional court of justice, which rejected his appeal. He then applied to the Supreme Court of Appeals, whose 16th penal chamber reversed the previous ruling. The Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling may set a precedent in other related cases in Turkey.
In its ruling, the court said that the organization of Gülen “initially emerged as a moral and educational movement and that the all the layers of the society perceived it as such.” The court also said Gülenists tried “to create the impression that the movement gets its legitimacy from religion in the civilian area and law in the public area.”
There is no evidence that Özcan knew about the ultimate aims of the group or was involved in the group’s hierarchical structure, the court also stated.
“Being a member of a group means forming an organic bond with it and taking part in its activities,” it added.
Upon the reversal of the conviction, Özcan was released from jail.