Turkish court arrests journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç over probe into intelligence chief

Journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç

An İstanbul court on Thursday ruled to arrest journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç and five others as part of an investigation into the 2012 summoning of Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), by a prosecutor for questioning.

Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants on July 12 for 24 people who were allegedly involved in a 2012 investigation into top officials at MİT, including Fidan. The case has been linked to an incident in February 2012, when an İstanbul prosecutor ordered MİT’s Fidan and other officials to testify in an investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban network of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Among the individuals being sought are US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, Murat Karabulut, former police inspectors Yurt Atayün, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Serdar Bayraktutan, Oguzhan Ceylan and Erol Demirhan, former prosecutors Sadrettin Sarıkaya and Bilal Bayraktar, former reporter for the Radical daily Gökkılıç and Habertürk TV, lawyers and former MİT officials.

Ten out of the 24 were already under arrest as part of other investigations into the Gülen movement, while five people are still at large. During simultaneous operations, six out of nine people, including journalist Gökkılıç, were arrested, while operations continue to detain the remaining people.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 238 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 18, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 177 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

On Feb. 7, 2012, prosecutor Sarıkaya, who was leading an İstanbul investigation into the KCK, summoned Fidan, his predecessor, Emre Taner, and former MİT deputy undersecretary Afet Güneş, who were all involved in talks with the PKK, to answer questions in the probe.

According to reports, then-President Abdullah Gül told Fidan to testify, but then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered him not to appear. Through the approval of a new law that required permission from the prime minister for legal action against MIT members by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Parliament, Erdoğan put Fidan under his legal protection.

Erdoğan, who calls Fidan his “secret box,” later interpreted the February crisis as an attempt targeting himself by the faith-based Gülen movement. President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP government pursued a crackdown on the movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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