The Turkish intelligence agency failed to respond to a court order to provide reports it had compiled on a number of defendants including a journalist who were tried in Ankara on dubious charges of terrorism.
The order was issued by presiding judge Selfet Giray, who oversaw the trial at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, after the defendants asked him to see reports compiled by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) so that they could prepare an effective defense. The motion for access to detailed intelligence documents was made after the defendants were accused of connections to what the government claimed was a terrorist group based on evidence that included an intelligence report submitted to the prosecutor’s office.
However, MİT refused to comply with the judge’s order. The revelations were made during the 28th hearing of the trial on March 31, 2017, when judge Giray said MİT had not responded to the order issued by the court, which had previously asked for reports on the Gülen movement and its organizational structure and how the defendants were connected to the group. The movement is led by US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is highly critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for pervasive corruption in government and the Turkish president’s support for armed jihadist groups in Syria.
MİT, part of the executive branch, is obligated to respond to court orders despite the vast privileges it enjoys in Turkey’s revamped criminal justice system. The court can bring criminal charges against any member or organ of the government if they fail to comply with judges’ rulings. In this case, however, the judges decided to not press forward and declined to issue a judgement against MİT, which is led by Erdoğan confidant Hakan Fidan. Instead, the court decided to reverse its original decision and rescinded its order for MİT documents on the Gülen movement. It said a report by the intelligence agency submitted to the prosecutor’s office during the investigation stage would be used in the hearings.
Among the defendants was Hidayet Karaca, a veteran Turkish broadcaster who served as chairman of the Television Broadcasters Association as well as Television Audience Measurement (TİAK). He had worked in the print media for years, carrying out bureau representative assignments for the Zaman daily in İzmir and Ankara before accepting a job with the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group in 1999. When he was taken into custody by police officers who raided the television studio where he was working on Dec. 14, 2014, he was the general manager of the network.
The 55-year-old Karaca was indicted by the Ankara high criminal court on July 22, 2016, one-and-a-half years later. The Ankara court sentenced Karaca to life in prison in June 2018 although he had been deprived of his right to mount an effective defense. Prosecutors and government officials have accused Karaca of smearing the Mollah Muhammed group, a Turkish al-Qaeda network also known as Tahşiyeciler. Mollah Muhammed — real name, Mehmet Dogan — praised al-Qaeda and its late leader Osama bin Laden and suggested that Muslims all over the world should recognize the authority of bin Laden. The evidence against Karaca was two lines in a soap opera scene from a TV series broadcast on one of the six TV stations he managed. The lines were critical of the al-Qaeda group.
In recent years the Erdoğan government has pushed several amendments to the intelligence law through parliament, bestowing on the spy agency extensive new privileges and bringing near immunity from criminal prosecution to its actions. The investigation and prosecution of MİT members are only possible with Erdoğan’s permission. The intel agency’s blanket immunity and the almost complete impunity given its operatives have led to many human rights violations including a systematic and deliberate campaign of enforced disappearances of government critics. The agency has been so emboldened that some abductions took in the Turkish capital in broad daylight, and illegal renditions were conducted in blatant violation of Turkey’s commitments under UN treaties.
Fidan, who has politicized the agency, has purged over 500 professionals from service and replaced them with Islamists and neo-nationalist figures since 2013. MİT’s integrity has been completely undermined, and many believe it can no longer function as a dependable intelligence service for Turkey’s national security interests. It only serves the parochial interests of one man and his thugs, who together rule Turkey.