A judicial investigation process was initiated into the members of the Gülen Movement as of Dec. 14. The cause of the investigation is expressed as this movement's endeavor to punish another religious movement with extralegal methods. The members of the other group, namely the Tahşiye group, were really under arrest for up to around two years from 2009 with the cooperation of police, prosecutors and judges affiliated with the Gülen Movement. False evidence was presented in the investigation and state facilities were used to criminalize these people. The investigation, which was opened as a result of the insistent complaints filed by Tahşiye group members, is now one of the top topics on Turkey's and the world's agenda in its current dimensions.
However, international media outlets covered the subject as the detaining of journalists affiliated with the Gülen Movement rather than pointing out the alleged illegal activities that caused the investigation. The incident was served with some headlines alleging that President Recep Tattip Erdoğan is in an effort to silence dissident media groups. EU institutions and some EU countries have given some reactions that are not very usual. It is known that many investigations are conducted regarding the supposed non-democratic, illegal activities caused by the Gülen Movement in Turkey. Some waited for developments on that matter for a long time.
However, it seems a bit surprising for the investigation to be conducted in this manner. The case was brought to the judiciary and the judiciary is now free from the control of the Gülen Movement thanks to the recent Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) elections. It is not hard to assert that the role of the HSYK, which has a more pluralist structure now, would be positive in terms of securing justice and conducting a healthy trial.
However, the Gülen Movement's way to present the subject is a tactic we are familiar with in Turkey: To highlight a single rightful point of a subject in order to conceal the great injustice that actually comprises the big picture. When we hold a little coin at a certain distance from the eye, we could even cover the sun. We have seen the same approach in cases such as Sledgehammer and Ergenekon, in the form of execution and presentation of the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 investigations and also in the investigation into the Tahşiye group, which is the cause of the latest investigation.
Now they are displaying the same approach in the investigation into them. To conceal the facts with perception management is one of the means of political struggle in countries like Turkey, which have not yet been able to establish a settled democracy. In this political struggle, no party possesses the characteristics of a democratic actor seen in classic Western democracies. Even democratic political institutions might make many mistakes. In such cases, provisions of law turn into manipulative tools. This goes for all the parties of the political struggle, and the reality might get lost under the shadow of trivial rightful points that create opportunities for greater injustices.
Now, the Gülen Movement is in an effort to conceal its alleged illegal activities by manipulating the fact that some of those who were detained are members of the press, which is quite a familiar occurrence. The main problem here is not whether this investigation is done in accordance with the principles of a state of law, but the efforts of manipulation and concealment. If we ignore this point, we can easily turn into an object of manipulation.
I would like to make another point. The fight against the Gülen Movement is also important in terms of institutionalizing democracy in Turkey. However, if the fight itself becomes the main target, the same situation of concealment would also be seen here. The Gülen Movement was one of the obstacles blocking democratization. Consequently, the main target is to construct a pluralistic, participatory and decentralized political order in Turkey on the grounds of a new social contract. This significant target should not be victimized for trivial and cyclical rightful points.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.