Fethullah Gülen, once hailed as a moderate Islamic spiritual leader whose views were described as surprisingly liberal, is now considered as the leader of an opaque cult that infiltrated key positions in the Turkish judiciary and law enforcement
Some liberals and columnists, once his political allies, see the corruption probe as an illegitimate political intervention by Gülenist forces targeting an elected government.
Ceren Kenar, a well-known liberal Turkish journalist, said there was almost a consensus in Turkish public opinion that the probe was politically driven and operated by the Gülen Movement. "No democracy can tolerate an infiltration of an opaque cult group within such crucial state institutions," she said.
The Dec. 17 operation began at the end of 2013, led by judges and prosecutors linked to the Gülen Movement, and accused the sons of three ministers of bribery and setting up an illegal organization for financial gains. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the investigation is a plot orchestrated by Gülen to undermine the legitimate government of Turkey. Gülen, a cleric, is living in self-imposed exile in a rural Pennsylvania in the United States.
Özlem Çağlar Yılmaz, the General Coordinator and Board Member of the Association for Liberal Thinking, emphasized that the graft probe effectively created confusion and manipulated the public agenda.
Many analysts believe while the investigation is a plot against the government, the corruption inquiry should not be dropped completely.
"It is possible that some of these allegations might be based on credible evidence," said Kenar. "The government needs to take action against these allegations and has an obligation to allow the judiciary to operate."
Bekir Berat Özipek, a professor of political science at Istanbul Commerce University, said elected representatives rather than political and religious groups had the sole right to govern.
"Turkey has been suffering for over one hundred years in the hands of non-political forces," explained Özipek. "It must come to an end. I think we should give some credit to the government for its struggle against this judiciary activism. I personally support new judiciary law which is regulating the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors against these kinds of cliques. We can't allow a religious group to topple down the government with using its power inside the judiciary."
Liberals contend the way out of this crisis to increase the standard of Turkish democracy as Erdoğan's government has been doing for last ten years. "Along with the elimination of bureaucratic tutelage, confrontation with the past and reforms on democratization and strengthening rule of law can take us and the democratic government out of this crisis," Yılmaz said.