Erdoğan gov’t used allegations of jailed child molester to level false charges against critics

Child molestation and sexual exploitation of minors in Turkey has been a lingering problem.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used unsubstantiated allegations made by a jailed felon who was convicted in two separate cases of child rape and sexual molestation including one that involved his daughter in order to lend fuel to false claims against its major critic, the Gülen movement, in Turkey.

According to a cache of secret documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the government used a statement made from jail by 49-year-old Davut Şafak, who was convicted of the sexual molestation of minors, in order to help build criminal investigations into a number of people including prosecutors, judges and others.

 

Turkish prosecutor’s document citing the evidence in two cases of sexual molestation of a minor by Davut Şafak.

 

From his prison cell, Şafak leveled a number of accusations against prosecutors, judges and private citizens who were alleged to have been associated with the Gülen movement. Without presenting any supporting evidence, he claimed all the charges that led to his convictions including statements from his victims were part of a plot orchestrated by people linked to the movement.

Although letters Şafak had previously written were deemed unsubstantiated and dismissed by authorities years ago, a new letter sent in March 2017 to the İnebolu Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Black Sea region was treated as if it were evidence. It led to a series of investigations into people named in the letter even though Şafak was known to be a habitual liar, as his record showed. The paper trail indicates that the authorities treated complaints selectively depending on the person named in them, with people seen as supporters of Erdoğan facing no scrutiny.

 

Graphic account of the sexual molestation of a minor by Davut Şafak detailed in judicial council ruling: 

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On the other hand, the letter with the false allegations was entered as evidence in criminal investigations being pursued against people who were seen as associated with the Gülen movement, an outspoken dissident group that is critical of the Erdogan government on a range of issues from pervasive corruption to Turkey’s arming and funding of radical jihadist groups. The movement’s leader, Fethullah Gülen, who has been residing in the US since 1999, has been viciously targeted by the Erdoğan government in an unprecedented defamation campaign, slapped with dozens of false criminal cases and demonized for standing up against the Erdoğan government’s political Islamist ideology.

According to the secret documents, Şafak, after sending the letter, was taken from his cell to the communications room in Ümraniye Prison to give a formal statement via teleconference to Turkish prosecutor Mustafa Özey on March 27, 2017. He rehashed the accusations, throwing out many names and claiming that he was framed by the judges and prosecutors who investigated and tried his rape cases. Eager to shore up the ongoing cases against Gülen and his followers, the prosecutor took the complaint seriously until it fell apart on the lack of any evidence to support the far-fetched claims of a repeat sexual offender being framed.

 

Secret police and prosecutor’s documents that treated the false allegations of a rapist as if they were real evidence: 
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According to court papers, Şafak was accused in 1999 of raping and sexually molesting two girls in a public school in the village of Isırganlık, located some 20 kilometers from the town of Bozkurt in Kastamonu province. He was a teacher with the authority of a principal in a small school in the village. When the incident was publicized, it created outrage in the community, and the locals were up in arms. The Ministry of Education had to send investigators from Ankara to launch an administrative probe, while Turkish prosecutor Erhan Ünsal in the town of Bozkurt summoned Şafak to give a statement. He was later referred to the court by the prosecutor, who demanded his arrest at the arraignment. The judge ruled to put him in jail pending trial.

His victims, two girls named E.C. and P. Ç., testified against him, detailing how he molested them. “Our teacher locked us up in the principal’s office under the pretext of studying, stripped off our clothes and penetrated with his penis from the back and the front,” the victims said in their statements and testified to that effect during the trial heard by a court in Inebolu under case file No. 2000/41. The families of the children also testified against him. In the end, Şafak was convicted and sent to prison on February 13, 2001. He requested a new trial, but Judge Metin Özçelik rejected his appeal in case No. 2014/23, stating that no new evidence had emerged that warranted a new trial.

The court papers also show that Şafak was involved in another case of sexual molestation, this time involving his own daughter, S.Ş., and was tried at the Istanbul 6th High Criminal Court as part case file No. 2009/355.

Following Şafak’s allegations that he was framed and that the victims were prepped by Gülenists, prosecutor Özey again took the statements of the victims, years after they were traumatized. In the summary of proceedings filed on June 9, 2017 Özey stated that victim E.C., now an adult, repeated the same accusations, stood by the statement she gave two decades ago and denied the allegation that she was led by others to level sexual molestation charges. The prosecutor also added that he obtained statements from others named by Şafak as his witnesses to collaborate his account, but that all the witnesses said they had no solid information or observations to corroborate Şafak’s allegations. The requests to obtain the testimony of other victims and witnesses in the sexual molestation cases were referred to prosecutors in the provinces in which they were living.

 

Secret summary of proceedings drafted by Turkish prosecutor Özey, who found no corroborating evidence to support Şafak’s allegations: 

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Özey sent the case file with his findings to the Kastamonu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has jurisdiction in such matters. On December 7, 2017 prosecutor Uğur Özcan in the Kastamonu office decided to drop the investigation based on the preliminary investigation and decided to not launch a public case.

 

Prosecutor Özey’s letter to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, sending the case file there for further investigation into the people named by Şafak. 

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Secret document that shows Kastamonu prosecutor Uğur Özcan decided to drop the investigation into allegations that were raised in the false complaint: 

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Şafak was not satisfied. He went ahead and challenged the prosecutor’s decision to drop the probe in Kastamonu by filing a motion with a judge in a penal court in the province on January 10, 2018. However, Judge Emel Afan Ünal ruled on January 16 that Şafak’s motion was without merit, rejected the challenge and sided with prosecutor Özey’s ruling.

 

Secret document that shows Judge Emel Afan Ünal rejected Şafak’s motion to challenge the prosecutor’s decision to not prosecute:

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At the same, however, prosecutor Özcan sent Şafak’s false complaint as evidence that would be included in unrelated and separate cases pursued against people who were affiliated with the Gülen movement. He asked the Ankara Police Department’s counterterrorism unit to take the information and also asked the police to forward Şafak’s complaint to the offices of other prosecutors in various provinces where people named in the complaint resided.

In a secret memo the Directorate for General Security (Emniyet) in Ankara distributed the letter to police departments in 21 provinces, asking them to investigate the people named in Şafak’s letter. A copy was forwarded to the intelligence and organized crime units. The police departments acted on the letter and used it as evidence to pursue movement members.

 

The Directorate for General Security’s secret memo ordering 21 provinces to investigate people named in Şafak’s letter:

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For example, the Antalya Police Department investigated two people named in Şafak’s letter who were resident in the province and sent their file to the prosecutor’s office on May 4, 2018. Based on the police report, prosecutor Ahmet Gürbüz launched a criminal investigation into these people the next day.

The selective approach of using false testimony as evidence in some cases and not in others was also employed by the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) with respect to judges and prosecutors who were accused by Şafak. In the Code on Criminal Procedure, the investigation of judges and prosecutors can only be done by the HSK.

On December 11, 2019 the First Chamber of the HSK ruled to recommend the rejection of the complaint filed against then-Inebolu High Court judges Murat Kızılyar, Tuğrul Hançerkıran, Mehmet Sertaç Kesler and Metin Özçelik and prosecutors Ertan Ünsal, Ali Çelik and Özkan Gültekin. The HSK members concluded that no evidence was presented to support Şafak’s allegations against the judges and prosecutors and noted that members of the judiciary in the province had complied with the law in prosecuting and trying the case of the child molester and found no evidence of abuse of power.

 

The HSK ruling that rejected allegations raised by Davut Şafak:

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Yet, with respect to some of the judges and prosecutors who were profiled as not supportive of the Erdoğan government and as such dismissed and/or jailed a year before Şafak brought his complaint, the HSK members said they were already being punished in terrorism cases. Judge Kızılyar, who was the investigating judge at the Supreme Court of Appeals, Judge Hançerkıran, who was assigned to a court in Gaziantep, and Judge Özçelik, who was overseeing a court in Istanbul, were all dismissed without any effective administrative or judicial probe.

Likewise, Ordu prosecutor Gültekin was also purged along with more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors in 2016. It turned out the independent judges and prosecutors were already flagged in 2014 when they ran against a government-backed list for a seat on the HSK. Özçelik was imprisoned in 2015 when he ruled against the government in a criminal case, and the others were dismissed and/or jailed in 2016 after a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

 

Şafak’s petition filed from prison named 15 people, including judges, prosecutors, a governor and attorneys as interfering in his criminal case: 

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In the early years of his prosecution, Şafak had tried to enlist the help of the Gülen movement to secure his release from prison according to his own account. He had worked in schools run by the group for several years before leaving the movement and starting to work for the government. But nobody in the Gülen group responded positively to his overtures and stayed away from him. Then he started filing false complaints against prosecutor Ünsal, who indicted him, and prosecutor Cengiz Özülkü, who was responsible for the prison where he was incarcerated, claiming that they were all Gülenists. He was slapped with another indictment for leveling false complaints without any evidence, convicted on charges of defaming public officials and sentenced to six months in prison.

After he was released pending trial at the end of 2003, Şafak wrote another letter, this time to the State Security Court (Devlet Güvenlik Mahkemeleri, or DGM), claiming that he knew the killers of Necip Hablemitoğlu, an academic who was murdered on December 18, 2002 in front of his home. The perpetrators were never found. The DGM asked the local prosecutor to take Şafak’s statement, but he refused to give one as long as he was in jail. He promised he would talk after his release but refused to give a statement for a second time after he was let go pending trial on rape and molestation charges. When his conviction was upheld, he was sent back to prison to serve out his sentence.

 

Former İstanbul deputy chief public prosecutor Zekeriya Öz (C), who had been overseeing a case against Turkey’s “deep state” operatives who engaged in terrorism and extrajudicial killings. He was dismissed by the Erdoğan government; the case was hushed up and the suspects freed.

 

Years later, in a 2017 statement Şafak claimed that Gülenists were behind the murder and said he overheard such talk by chance from people whom he claimed were close to the movement. Again, no evidence was presented to support his allegations, which seemed to have been designed to attract the interest of the government media. In fact, several media outlets jumped on the bandwagon, covering his allegations but excluding his sexual rape convictions. For example, the Sabah daily, owned by the family of President Erdoğan, claimed on March 2, 2018, that Gülen gave the order to kill Hablemitoğlu and cited Şafak’s letter as evidence, but the story deliberately omitted why Şafak was jailed in the first place. Undermining their credibility, Erdoğan-controlled media outlets also ignored the fact that Şafak’s allegations were refuted by both the prosecutor’s office and the HSK.

Hablemitoğlu’s murder was believed to have been the work of what Turks call the “deep state,” a clandestine group within the state’s military and security institutions that engages in illegal activities with impunity including extrajudicial killings. One of the suspects was far-right militant İbrahim Çifti, who was described as the mastermind behind the academic’s assassination. Çifti was killed in October 2006 when a hand grenade was thrown at a cafe belonging to him in the Alsancak district of İzmir. The hand grenade that killed Çiftçi had a serial number matching four others found in an Ümraniye shanty house a year later when investigators were looking into gang activities in the military, police and other branches of government. All the grenades came from the same military stockpile.

Çifti, a prominent figure in the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), even ran for party leadership in 1997 but was not elected. The current  chairman, Devlet Bahçeli, won the election. Çifti was also implicated in the 1978 assassination of Ankara Public Prosecutor Doğan Öz, who was investigating suspicious activities of groups secreted within the military. He had found out that the Counter-Guerrilla organization was affiliated with the General Staff’s department of war, which was later renamed the Tactical Mobilization Group.

 

Ankara Public Prosecutor Doğan Öz, who was gunned down in 1978 after he investigated rogue operatives within the Turkish military and security branches.

The prosecutor was planning to file a case against the officials of the General Staff’s department of war. However, two months after he presented the report to then-Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, he was assassinated when he was about to get into his car in front of his house, on March 24, 1978. The description of the gunman matched that of Çifti, whose gun was later found to have been involved in another murder.

Çiftçi confessed to having killed Öz and gave up his accomplices. A murder case was filed on December 26, 1978, and Çiftçi stood trial, with the prosecutor demanding the death penalty. The case was referred to an Ankara military court after the September 12, 1980 coup d’état. The court sentenced him to death because he confessed to having committed the murder. The higher court overturned the ruling, and then the court insisted on the initial ruling. However, the Military Supreme Court of Appeals overturned each of the rulings. The Ankara court said in its final verdict that although it established that Çiftçi had deliberately killed Öz, the court had to abide by the ruling of the Military Supreme Court of Appeals and ruled for his acquittal.

It later emerged that Çiftçi’s lawyer, Can Özbay, also the lawyer for Mehmet Ali Ağca, who shot and injured Pope John Paul II in 1981, wrote a letter to then-Prime Minister Bülent Ulusu and demanded Çiftçi’s acquittal.

Today, based on a sexual predator’s disproven allegations, the Erdoğan government is trying to pin Hablemitoğlu’s murder on the Gülen movement in order to deflect attention from the masterminds who continue to operate with impunity. Erdoğan and his allies, the MHP and the neo-nationalist Motherland (Vatan) Party, have managed to secure the release of gang leaders like Alaaddin Çakıcı, who was also used by the “deep state” to commit dozens of murders on behalf of the state.

 

The Sabah daily, owned by President Erdogan’s family, tried to pin the murder of an academic on the Gülen movement based on a rapist’s refuted allegations.

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