Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on Wednesday issued verdicts in a trial where former judges and prosecutors are accused of running a wiretapping conspiracy on behalf of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The “Selam Tevhid trial” had implicated 55 former judges and prosecutors associated with the group, which is known for orchestrating sham trials and investigations to imprison its critics or anyone deemed an obstacle to their agenda of seizing power in the country. The verdict hearing by a chamber of the top court was held at a sprawling complex of prison and courthouse where a majority of FETÖ members are being held or are on trial in the capital, Ankara.
Twenty defendants in the case were sentenced to prison terms between one year and six months to 11 years on charges of membership in a terrorist group. The court ordered a separate trial for 23 defendants currently at large and a separate trial for all defendants on charges of "political and military espionage." 10 defendants who were acquitted in the case will be tried at this separate trial. Two defendants were given suspended sentences for collaborating with authorities. Two others were released with judiciary control. Other defendants were handed down more lenient sentences, while charges were dropped for two defendants who were already sentenced in another trial on the same charge.
Selam Tevhid refers to the name of a movement allegedly linked to Iran. Under the guise of a counter-terrorism probe, based on concocted evidence, FETÖ-linked prosecutors and judges justified illegal wiretappings of a large number of people, including public officials, despite lack of evidence. Last year, an Istanbul court had handed down severe prison terms for former police chiefs who run “counter-terrorism” operations and used warrants by FETÖ-linked judiciary members to conduct the wiretapping. Suspects were accused of faking an investigation into 238 suspects on allegations of espionage for Iran. Soon, the investigation, which was secretly held between 2010 and 2013, expanded to some 7,000 people whose phones were tapped. Among the prominent figures wiretapped as part of the "investigation" was then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It only came to light after a network of police chiefs and prosecutors linked to FETÖ tried to overthrow the government in December 2013 which, just like Selam Tevhid, was based on forged evidence targeting people close to the government under the guise of a graft probe.
The terrorist group faced increased scrutiny after the 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people and injured nearly 2,200 others. Tens of thousands of people were arrested following the attempt. Investigations launched before and after the 2016 putsch bid shed light on the terrorist group's decades of infiltration into the judiciary, law enforcement, military and bureaucracy. Once its infiltrators rose to prominent ranks, particularly in the past decade, the terrorist group launched several plots seeking to defame the government or imprison the group's critics.
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