Turkey’s witch hunt of critics was expanded to India

Turkish Foreign Ministry

Turkey’s relentless campaign to hunt down critics of the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan abroad reached as far as India, judicial documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.

The documents indicate that Turkish educators and businessmen living in India had been included in a terrorism probe based on fabricated charges by a Turkish prosecutor.

According to a December 21, 2018 decision by prosecutor Adem Akıncı, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/230240) into 12 Turkish nationals in India who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in New Delhi without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

The investigation included Turkish nationals such as representatives of the Indialogue Foundation, which brings together members of different religions and cultures and organizes the International Festival of Language and Culture (IFLC) in the country; the directors of the Turkish Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; and teachers and prominent businessmen who have been living in the country for more than 20 years. According to the documents they were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Akıncı.

The investigation was based on spying files created at the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi between 2016 and 2018. The files might have been conveyed to the foreign ministry by Burak Akçapar, Turkish ambassador to India from August 2011 to December 2016, or Erdoğan’s current envoy, Şakir Özkan Torunlar, who took office in January 2017.

The judicial documents confirmed once again that intelligence reports drafted by Turkish diplomatic missions as part of a large-scale spying campaign have targeted critics and opponents of the Turkish government living outside Turkey and have been used in criminal cases in the country. Turkish diplomats listed the names of Turkish nationals as if they were part of a terrorist organization and transmitted them to headquarters.

As previously disclosed  by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the national police and Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT on February 19, 2018 via an official document for further administrative or legal action, the punishment of their relatives back in Turkey and the seizure of their assets.

Public prosecutor Akıncı, who received the foreign ministry document on February 23, 2018, forwarded the classified CDs including information on 4,386 Erdoğan critics to the Organized Crimes Unit of the Ankara Police Department for further action. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor.

According to judicial documents released by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on January 16, 2019, the foreign ministry compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who were seen as close to the Hizmet/Gülen movement, a group critical of the Turkish government, in 92 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

Moreover, Nordic Monitor revealed how MIT infiltrated refugee camps in Greece in order to spy on opponents who were forced to flee to Greece to escape an unprecedented crackdown in neighboring Turkey.

Erdoğan began to target members of the movement after two massive corruption and graft investigations in December 2013, which implicated him, his son and four ministers along with other prominent figures from his government and support base.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist conspiracy aimed at overthrowing his rule, he hushed up the investigations, designated the movement as an armed terrorist organization and seized Gülen/Hizmet-affiliated media outlets, private financial institution Bank Asya and businesses owned partially by people affiliated with the movement.

Events took a turn for the worse when a group of soldiers calling themselves the “Peace at Home Council” attempted to oust the Erdoğan government with an attempted coup on July 15, 2016 that was foiled overnight. Seeing the opportunity presented by the coup attempt, which he called “a gift from God” and which he accused Fethullah Gülen of masterminding, an accusation repeatedly denied by Gülen, Erdoğan declared an all-out war against anything and anyone who had even the slightest connection to the movement.

From then on his motto, “Show them no mercy,” would define his actions towards people affiliated with the movement. In this anti-Gülenist frenzy Turkish prosecutors have investigated more than 500,000 people, while Turkish courts have arrested nearly 100,000 individuals on allegations of terrorism due to their assumed links to the Gülen/Hizmet movement. The assets of individuals and entities affiliated with the movement which, according to estimates from Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), amounted to $11 billion, were seized.

In identifying individuals’ links to the movement, the Erdoğan government developed such criteria as using a smartphone application called ByLock, owning an account in the movement-affiliated Bank Asya, sending a son or a daughter to a Gülen/Hizmet-operated school, subscribing to the Zaman daily newspaper or other periodicals, making monetary or qurban donations to the movement and organizing charity events to the benefit of the group and the like, based on which tens of thousands people were put behind bars.

Those documents exposed how the Erdoğan government has expanded this witch hunt abroad. According to official reports Turkey has sent 570 extradition requests to 94 countries since the failed coup. Over 100 alleged members of the Hizmet/Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by Turkish intelligence and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s global manhunt, according to a statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. They were reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment and were denied the right to a fair trial.

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