Court imposes travel ban on 54 judges, lawyers in Gülenist espionage case

Published 10.11.2015 21:12

An Istanbul court imposed a travel ban on 54 judges and prosecutors Tuesday who were implicated in an alleged illegal wiretapping case by members of the Gülen Movement, who are believed to have infiltrated state institutions.

There are numerous charges against the suspects, including accusations of forming an armed terrorist group; political and military espionage; undermining the state, breaching privacy, forging official documents, fabricating crimes and destroying evidence.

The court ordered the arrests in absentia of U.S.-based fugitive imam Fetullah Gülen and former police officer Emre Uslu on Monday over illegal wiretapping in the Selam Tevhid case, along with 112 suspects.

Shadowy imam Gülen, who is in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, is being sought as the primary suspect for being the leader of the alleged Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ). The indictment against Gülen and Uslu is 10,529-pages long. A total of 55 out of 122 suspects in the probe, including former police chief Yurt Atayün, have been arrested.

The network led by Gülen in the Selam Tevhid case is accused of wiretapping senior government figures, including the Prime Minister, the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief, Cabinet ministers, as well as journalists, through serving state officials. The court decided that the first trial of the case would be held early February next year and also issued red notices for both suspects.

This is not the first time that a Turkish court has issued arrest warrants for Gülen and Uslu. On Oct. 19, Istanbul's High Penal Court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen and his aide Sinan Dursun for "attempting to stage a coup, establishing and masterminding an armed organization and political espionage" in Turkey. On Feb. 24, a criminal court in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for Gülen and Uslu, again related to the FETÖ probe.

The current probe was launched with the allegation that the suspects in the fabricated Selam-Tevhid case were illegally wiretapped by members of FETÖ under the guise of an inquiry into the eponymous, nonexistent terrorist organization.

In a 10,500-page indictment prepared by Istanbul's Deputy Chief Prosecutor Irfan Fidan, 122 suspects, including former police chiefs, were accused of terrorism and espionage. A second indictment submitted by Okan Özsoy, the prosecutor for Istanbul's Terror and Organized Crimes Bureau, claimed 143 serving and former police officers were involved in similar crimes. Both indictments, which were sent to criminal courts in Istanbul for approval, relate to wiretapping operations carried out in recent years that targeted, among others, senior government officials and ministers.

The first indictment claims an inquiry into a purported terror group known as Selam-Tevhid, which was used as a pretext to bug senior figures.

The prosecutor asked for sentences of more than 67 years for Gülen, Uslu and Istanbul's former counterterrorism police chief Yurt Atayün.

The second case included senior police intelligence officers among those accused of illegal wiretapping. The charges are the same as in the first indictment.

The Gülen Movement is accused of establishing or managing a terrorist organization, exposing confidential information belonging to the state for political or military espionage purposes, attempting to overthrow or obstruct the function of the government of the Republic of Turkey, violating the confidentiality of private life, unlawful recording of personal information, forgery of official documents, fabricating crimes, and destroying evidence.

Activities and operations of the Gülen Movement in the U.S. and Turkey have been scrutinized by a number of American media outlets that question the movement's motives, opacity and why the U.S. government is providing refuge to Fethullah Gülen, who is currently facing numerous charges including treason and extradition.

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