“Erdoğan’s Long Arm” was caught red handed in Belgium. The Belgian Police detected that the IP address, where threat messages were sent to Turkish journalists via some social media, belongs to the Turkish Embassy in Brussels.
The headline news of Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN,) one of the bestselling newspaper in Belgium, on Friday has reported that The IP addresses of the threat messages indicates the Turkish Embassy in Brussels. The prosecutor’s office carrying out the investigation also confirmed the information.
The Brussels’ Bureau Chief of the closed newspaper Zaman; Selçuk Gültaşlı and other correspondents were pointed as a target after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 by twitter users named ‘Veysel Filiz’ and ‘Selim Güzel.’ Veysel Filiz was the Press Consultant of the Turkish Embassy for that time.
Turkish journalist R. filed a criminal complaint about the Twitter accounts, which sent posts to be in scope of hate crimes. The investigation has been going on for one and a half year. The Belgian Police’s inquiry focused on the accounts named Selim Güzel (@selimguzel_FC) and Veysel Filiz, the Press Consultant of the Embassy.
According to the news of HLN, Zaventem Police informed R. a few weeks ago and said that they detected that one of the IP addresses who was threatening him belonged to the Turkish Embassy. R. took the record as an official report.
It is also stated that the prosecutor’s office had a difficult time as the investigation gained a diplomatic character. Therefore, the paper has reported that, the investigation has proceeded very slowly for the last few months because of its political and diplomatic sensitivity. The former press official of the Turkish Embassy was also in a diplomatic status.
Jeroen Bosaert, the journalist who signed the news report, called the Turkish Embassy and asked for information. He asked the Embassy officials if they knew anyone called Selim Güzel. But he received a reply that they didn’t know anyone with that name, and that person didn’t work for the embassy either.
Nevertheless, Bosaert kept on his search and revealed Selim Güzel’s previous posts on twitter as he was someone working for the Embassy. For instance, on July 27, 2016 he posted “We attended Europe Islamophobia Summit in Sarajevo. We were with Volkan Kocagül from our Ministry of the EU. The topic is dimensional, I will write about it.” And Volkan Kocagül was a high ranking diplomat at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Journalist Bosaert has reported the contradiction in the Turkish Embassy’s statements, and he highlighted that the twitter user Selim Güzel was occasionally with Turkish ministers and diplomats.
R. filed his first complaint about the threats on social media on the next day of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The reason was, Veysel Filiz @veysel_FILIZ tagged R. and posted “Do not rejoice so soon, we are marking your lairs.”
Journalist filed his second complaint in September 2016 for Selim Güzel. The reason for that was, Güzel mentioned R. and posted “the Belgium Media Hitman of FETÖ” the same tweet included a list of other Turkish journalists who were targeted, too. The investigation about Güzel’s social media posts was in process since then.
“FETÖ” is a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has been using to defame the Gülen movement.
It was also stated in the report that R. was secretly taken in police protection for six months. Journalist told the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) that he had just learned this information, too. This information was in the investigation file. After his complaint, the Belgian police in disguise had taken security precautions around his house for six months. Local police had checked out around his house, too. He felt himself more secure then. “This is something good. It is a substantial feeling,” he said and added that he felt he was leaving in democratically and lawfully developed country.
R. has also talked about his complaints and stated that they were journalists in Brussels following the agenda of Belgium and Turkey’s EU relations. He said that “We were not related to and interested in the local events in Turkey. We were shaken when the Zaman daily in Turkey was seized. We lost our jobs. A few months later the coup attempt occurred. We began to be threatened here. Therefore, I customarily went to the police. I felt it as a security issue. Because, physical assaults had already started here.”
R. has also commented on the stage of the investigation process and stated that “The prosecutor’s office might have been incapacitated. Because the suspects have diplomatic immunity. Legal intervention to the Embassy may not be possible. They will wait and see how far the investigation could go.”