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Turkish Government's Abuse of Counter-Terrorism Laws

By: The Journalists and Writers Foundation

I. Introduction

1. Over the past several years, Turkey is facing complex security challenges, dealing with a number of serious terrorist attacks targeting the Turkish people.

2. The Syrian refugee crisis and violent extremism, followed by the creation of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, as well as the attempted coup in Turkey – have all contributed to political, economic and social distress. The Iraqi and Syrian conflicts spillover into Turkey have only exacerbated the fragile security environment. There were no terrorist attacks in 2014 - 4 attacks (149

victims) in 2015 and 22 attacks (more than 317 victims) in 2016. Among other very serious attacks, on May 11, 2013, two car bombs exploded in Reyhanlı (Hatay province), killing 51 Turkish nationals. In the early hours of January 1, 2017, a terrorist attack claimed the lives of 39 innocent people from fifteen nationalities at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul. At least 70 others were wounded.

3. Since at least 2014, the government of Turkey, however, has shifted its primary focus to the Hizmet/Gülen Movement1 , accusing it of being a terrorist organization and detaining or arresting anyone with the slightest perceived link or connection with the group.

4. In Turkey, hundreds of people are detained or arrested every week since July 2016, for allegedly being members or sympathizers of the Movement. According to recent official data from the Ministry of Justice, at least 612,347 individuals (155,014 in 2016 and 457,423 during 2017) faced investigations on accusations of “founding, leading or being a member of terror groups,” as defined by Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) Article 314. Many of those arrested have been charged with membership of the Hizmet Movement, while a few have been accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to recent data compiled by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), since the attempted coup the government has arrested around 88,000 alleged members/sympathizers of the Hizmet Movement2 .

5. Since December 11, 2015, the Hizmet Movement is classified by the Turkish government as a terrorist organization under the assigned names Gülenist Terror Organization (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü FETÖ) or Parallel State Organization (Paralel Devlet Yapılanması, PDY). In the declaration of the state of emergency, absent any investigation or legal proceedings, the Turkish Government stated that “Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) has staged a coup attempt in 1 - Gülen Movement is also referred to as Hizmet (the Service) Movement. This Policy Brief uses the term Hizmet Movement or the Movement. 2 - JWF Policy Paper | Turkish Government’s Abuse of Counter-terrorism Laws 1 Turkey on 15 July 20163 . ” Mr. Fethullah Gülen denied the accusation of staging a coup and called for an international commission to investigate Turkish government’s claim4 .

6. Internationally, the government of Turkey has repeatedly called on other governments to take measures against the group. Only recently, from the UN General Assembly podium as he addressed the UNGA on September 27, 20185 , President Erdogan made a call “to swiftly take the necessary measures against the Gülenist terrorist organization for their own safety and the future of their nations.”

7. The present Policy Brief aims to shed light on the rationale behind the wholesale attack against the Hizmet Movement, including its classification as a terrorist organization by the government of Turkey and the international law implications of these actions, in particular international human rights law.

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