Former İstanbul governor, police chief acquitted of terrorism charges in retrial over Gülen links

A Turkish court has acquitted a former İstanbul governor and a police chief from the same city of terrorism charges in a retrial over their alleged links to a faith-based group targeted by the government, Turkish Minute reported.

Former İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu was jailed for 18 months, while former İstanbul police chief Hüseyin Çapkın was behind bars for six months following a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

They were charged with terrorism due to links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt despite a strong denial from the movement.

While Mutlu was given a prison sentence of three years, one month, Çapkın was given a prison sentence of two years, one month at the end of their trial. Their convictions were overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2021.

As a result of the retrial, which was held at the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court, the former governor and the police chief were acquitted of charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The Turkish government also labels the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, as a terrorist organization. The movement denies involvement in any acts of terrorism.

İzzet Özgenç, a professor of criminal law, tweeted that it was good that the court ruled for Mutlu’s acquittal; however, the court’s decision does not eliminate an embarrassing situation for the Turkish government, i.e, that the İstanbul governor was tried on charges of terror organization membership.

The indictment against the former bureaucrats sought three consecutive life sentences for each.

Mutlu and Çapkın were working in İstanbul when a corruption investigation went public in the week of Dec. 17-25, 2013, implicating senior members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The AKP government branded the corruption investigation a “coup attempt” by the Gülen movement, although the movement strongly denies any involvement, and arrested dozens of police officers who conducted the probe.

In his testimony Çapkın said he did not have prior information about the Dec. 17-25 corruption investigation.

He was fired after the corruption investigation became public knowledge in late 2013.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 332,467 people have been detained and 101,305 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced in June.

According to figures provided by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in July, 117,208 people have been convicted, with 1,366 sentenced to life in prison and 1,634 to aggravated life with no chance of parole over Gülen links since the coup attempt.

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