Gülenists accused of widespread exam fraud set to stand trial

Published 20.03.2016 23:15

The first hearing of a trial in which suspects linked to the shady Gülen Movement are accused of widespread fraud in a nationwide civil servant exam is scheduled to start in capital Ankara today.

Some 230 suspects accused of cheating on the exam by providing questions and answers to the 2010 exam face charges of membership of the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), an alleged subsidiary of the Gülen Movement that allegedly attempted to oust the government twice in 2013.

Prosecutors believe the Public Personnel Selection Exam (KPSS) in which the massive fraud reportedly took place was a springboard for Gülenists to infiltrate state institutions and climb the ranks of the bureaucracy.

Fifty-four suspects were arrested, the remaining defendants were released pending trial last year and several others remain at large.

With their people already in state agencies, Gülenists allegedly supplied questions and answers to people loyal to the movement, the indictment claims. Defendants face charges of running a terrorist organization, being a member in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting the organization, destroying incriminating evidence, defrauding public agencies and forgery in official documents. The court will also hear 272 people who filed criminal complaints against FETÖ over exam fraud. The plaintiffs are mostly those who failed to pass the exam. Prosecutors have asked for prison terms collectively totaling 3,800 years for the defendants who were arrested after a five-year inquiry. The exact number of people who scored high thanks to being supplied with the questions and answers is not available, although authorities say it was nationwide.

Ünal Yarımağan and Ali Demir, former directors of the Measurement, Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM), the state-run body tasked with organizing the KPSS exam also face charges of abuse of duty and destroying evidence in the case.

Prosecutors say in the indictment that FETÖ's attempts to install its members in public agencies posed a serious threat to the state and also damaged the public's confidence in equality and qualification for public jobs.

The indictment says that those who scored well on the exam were mostly people attending the same prep schools, private schools or employees of the same company, and a high percentage of successful participants were relatives. Prosecutors say evidence points to close relations between several suspects, including Mehmet Hanefi Sözen, who was the head of a nongovernmental organization and a suspected high-ranking Gülenist who is accused of delivering questions and answers to would-be participants. Sözen remains at large. The indictment points to alleged links between the companies suspects worked at and companies abroad linked to FETÖ as evidence of the organization's active involvement in the fraud along with suspicious money transfers between those companies in Turkey and "Gülenist schools and companies abroad."

The KPSS is not the only exam Gülenists are accused of cheating on for easy access to state posts. The cheating scheme was also detected in international exams such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and two renowned tests for English language proficiency. Sources say an undisclosed number of academics who are allegedly linked to the movement were investigated after it was discovered that the organizers of the IELTS in Turkey were bribed by the Gülenists. The IELTS is used for the promotion of academics at universities. An inquiry in 2013 found more than 1,500 people scored suspiciously high on exams at five private universities with ties to the movement who were eventually employed by public universities. Like in the KPSS scheme, accomplished participants were often found to be either couples or relatives who scored too low in previous, easier exams organized by the ÖSYM. The Gülen Movement, headed by the U.S.-based retired, fugitive imam Fethullah Gülen, is at the heart of a string of terror probes. Gülen and his followers, wanted on charges of running a terrorist organization, are accused of attempts to overthrow the government. Several investigations revealed the movement planned to do through its members in the judiciary and police as well as a massive network of followers from every profession in Turkey and around the world.

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