Turkey launches criminal investigation into prominent critic for sharing CNN interview with NBA star Enes Kanter

GYV Chairman Mustafa Yeşil (C), accompanied by Tercan Türkoğlu (L) and Erkam Aytav, speaks at a press conference in Istanbul in May 2014.

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

Mustafa Yeşil, a leading critic of the authoritarian government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was slapped with a criminal investigation over social media posts that shared, among others, an interview with Boston Celtics star Enes Kanter.

According to secret documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the gendarmerie command in the northwestern province of Çanakkale launched a counterterrorism investigation into Yeşil over his Facebook messages. Yeşil was president of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV) until the Erdoğan government unlawfully shut it down in 2016 and seized its assets. He had to leave Turkey to avoid imprisonment on fabricated charges after an unprecedented crackdown on the free, independent and critical media in the country.

Yet the charges and investigations have continued to pile up against him in absentia. A fresh criminal investigation was launched in February 2019 after the gendarmerie, which operates under the Interior Ministry, reviewed his Facebook messages. In a 32-page report submitted to the prosecutor’s office in the city of Biga, Yeşil’s sharing of a CNN International’s interview with NBA player Kanter, also a critic of the Erdoğan government, on his Facebook page was described as a criminal act under the country’s abusive counterterrorism laws.

 

Mustafa Yeşil’s Facebook message that shared NBA player Enes Kanter’s CNN interview was cited as evidence of terrorism in Turkey:

Enes_Kanter_Mustafa_Yesil

 

In another posting, Yeşil shared a message by a user who stated that almost no arrests were made of militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which had killed 310 people in a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey, while the Erdoğan government had arrested some 60,000 people over a coup attempt in 2016. That message was incorporated in the investigation file as well.

 

Mustafa Yeşil shared a posting that criticized the lack of arrests of ISIS militants in Turkey while the Turkish government had been busy arresting critics.

 

Yeşil’s postings of messages of Fethullah Gülen, the most outspoken critic of the Erdoğan government on a range of issues, from corruption to Turkey’s aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups in Syria, were also described as acts of terrorism, according to the investigation file. His sharing of reports issued by Swedish-based rights advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom were included in the report. In one posting he shared articles about the Turkish president’s wealth that were published in The New York Times, Le Monde and Bild. He also posted messages about torture and ill-treatment in Turkish prisons and detention centers. All were assessed as part of terrorist activity by the Turkish gendarmerie.

 

The gendarmerie’s intelligence unit compiled a secret report on Mustafa Yeşil over his Facebook postings: 

Mustafa_Yesil_intelligence

 

The initial investigation concerning Yeşil’s Facebook page was done by the intelligence unit of the Gendarmerie Central Command Garrison in Biga, Yeşil’s hometown, in Çanakkale province in February 2019. Gendarmerie commander Irfan Özdemir submitted a 32-page report consisting of Yeşil’s Facebook messages between May and October 2018 to the district command on March 4, 2019. The report was later submitted to the prosecutor’s office in the city. A similar 13-page report about Yeşil, again over his Facebook messages, was also subsequently incorporated in the criminal case file.

Yeşil has already been named as a defendant in two other criminal cases currently being tried in Ankara and Kocaeli provinces. He has been the subject of a defamation campaign, with all kinds of fabrications published in the government-controlled media in Turkey. He was labelled as a traitor and spy for simply attending a traditional luncheon of EU ambassadors in Ankara on December 19, 2013. The meeting was held every month, with guests invited from many nongovernmental organizations as well as the government.

The GYV under Yeşil organized a series of workshops called the Abant Platform, to address Turkey’s decades-long problem with Kurdish and Alevi issues, and brought together representatives of various communities and segments of Turkish society in an effort to bridge the gap. The GYV launched the Intercultural Dialogue Platform (KADİP) and organized a series of interfaith dialogue events in Turkey and abroad. In December 2013 “Diyaloğun Meyveleri” (Fruits of Dialogue), a book by Deputy Patriarch of the Turkish Syriac Catholic Church Yusuf Sağ, was launched at a reception hosted by KADİP. The event was held with the attendance of leading clerics such as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Aram Ateşyan, Turkish Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yusuf Çetin and many other guests. However, the Erdoğan government, bent on ruling Turkey by capitalizing on its divisions and fissures, opposed such initiatives and eventually managed to shut down the GYV. President Erdoğan himself openly said dialogue between Islam and Christianity was not possible.

 

Yusuf Sağ, deputy patriarch of the Turkish Syriac Catholic Church (4th R), launched his book at a reception held by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform of the GYV in Istanbul in December 2013.

 

The Erdoğan government brands all its critics as terrorists, and 161 journalists are currently locked up in Turkish jails on terrorism charges, making Turkey the world’s leading jailer of journalists, according to the latest monitoring report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom. In total, 167 Turkish journalists have been forced into self-exile to escape prison on false accusations.

Over 30 percent of all Turkish diplomats, 60 percent of all senior police chiefs, half of all military generals and some 30 percent of all judges and prosecutors in Turkey were also declared terrorists overnight in 2016 by the executive decisions of the Erdoğan government without any effective administrative investigations and certainly without any judicial proceedings.

 

Prosecutorial documents leveling fabricated criminal charges against Mustafa Yeşil:

Mustafa_Yesil_prosecutor_submission

 

Critics of the Erdoğan government, especially members of the Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, threats of death and abduction since 2014, when then-Prime Minister and now President Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles, ranging from corruption to aiding and abetting jihadist groups in Syria.

In Turkey, over half a million people affiliated with the Gülen movement have been put in detention facilities on fabricated terrorism charges in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016. Since then, more than 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed by the government with no effective judicial or administrative investigation, 4,560 of whom were judges and prosecutors and were replaced by pro-Erdogan staff. As a result of the massive purge, the Turkish judiciary and law enforcement authorities have become tools in the hands of the Islamist government of President Erdoğan.

The assets of individuals and entities affiliated with the movement which, according to estimates from Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), amounted to $11 billion, were also expropriated. The government also seized the assets and wealth of critical journalists and deprived them of their livelihood in order to stifle freedom of press and expression.

 

Mustafa Yeşil held a press conference in İstanbul in January 2014, leveling criticism against the Erdogan government over corruption.

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