New wave of detentions in Gülen-linked KPSS mass cheating scandal

Published 13.05.2016 09:03
Updated 13.05.2016 20:51

Police detained 80 out of 100 wanted suspects in 35 cities on Friday in a new wave of detentions of those suspected of cheating on a 2010 civil service exam.

The shadowy Gülen Movement is accused of supplying questions and answers to its followers for the Public Personnel Selection Exam (KPSS), which gives tens of thousands of people a chance to join the ranks of the bureaucracy.

In Ankara and 34 other cities, squads from the Turkish National Police's financial and organized crime units rounded up suspects, including teachers, wives of military offices, judges and police officers. The suspects are also accused of giving "himmet," which are donations to the movement. The movement is blamed for using such aid for illegal purposes.

The police operation is part of a two-year-old probe that has seen saw six waves of detentions so far to capture those who cheated in the exam.

Anadolu Agency (AA) reported the suspects included a relative of Mehmet Baransu, a journalist linked to the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), a terrorist organization allegedly connected to the movement, and currently imprisoned for taking part in an alleged FETÖ plot to imprison military officers. Two other suspects were employees of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). Senior Gülenist figures accused of supplying questions and answers remain at large and are believed to have fled abroad.

Media outlets reported that an investigation into the bank accounts of detainees show they "donated" money to entities linked to Gülenists every month. Each of the detainees answered all 120 questions in the exam correctly.

The KPSS cheating trial started in March with 230 defendants. A total of 54 people were arrested while others were released pending trial after a string of police operations last year. Defendants are accused of running a criminal organization, being members of the organization, forgery of official documents and/or defrauding public agencies.

Gülenists are accused of infiltrating state agencies, and the state has started a purge sympathizers of the movement, which allegedly twice attempted to oust the government three years ago.

The case stems from the revelation that a large number of people who scored high on the 2010 KPSS exam were either partners or relatives of Gülenists or were employed by companies and schools linked to the Gülen Movement. The head of a nongovernmental organization associated with the Gülen Movement, who remains at large, is accused of delivering answers to the exam to participants, with the assistance of Gülenist infiltrators within the state-run institution that organizes the exam.

Prosecutors believe the KPSS was a springboard for Gülenists to infiltrate state institutions and climb the ranks of the bureaucracy.

Prosecutors have asked for prison terms collectively totaling 3,800 years for the defendants. The exact number of people who scored high thanks to being supplied with the questions and answers is not available, although authorities say the fraud was carried out nationwide. Prosecutors say in the indictment that the 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 KPSS is not the only exam Gülenists are accused of cheating on to get easy access to state posts. Cheating 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 other English language proficiency tests. Sources say an undisclosed number of academics 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 that more than 1,500 people who were eventually employed by public universities scored suspiciously high on exams at five private universities with ties to the movement. An inquiry into cheating on TOEFL exams focused on allegations that Gülenists with higher language skills sat for the exams on behalf of those who had failed previous TOEFL exams. In practices similarly to those used in the KPSS scheme, successful participants were often found to have either partners or relatives who scored too low in previous, easier exams organized by the Measuring, Selection and Placement Center (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 are wanted on charges of running a terrorist organization and accused of attempting to overthrow the government. Several investigations have revealed the movement planned to carry out plots through members in the judiciary and police as well as a massive network of followers from every profession in Turkey and around the world. Dozens of police officers, prosecutors, judges and bureaucrats are already on trial for a string of allegations, ranging from widespread illegal wiretapping and plotting to imprisoning critics of the movement with forged evidence.

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