20 police officers released pending trial over ‘illegal wiretapping’

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Twenty out of 23 police officers, who were arrested as part of a government-orchestrated operation against police on July 22, 2014, have been released pending trial by an İstanbul court.

The İstanbul 13th Criminal Court of First Instance released 20 out of 23 police officers, while rejecting release demands of Former Deputy Chief of the National Police Department’s Anti-Terrorism Unit Hayati Başdağ, former İstanbul Police Department Intelligence Unit Police Chiefs Erol Demirhan and Ali Fuat Yılmazer on Tuesday.

There are also another 120 suspects of the case that have not been subjected to pre-trial detention.

A total of 115 police officers were detained on July 22, 2014 in a predawn operation in İstanbul, which prosecutors say was launched following allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping. However, many believe the operation was the first act of revenge by the government after a corruption investigation that became public on Dec. 17, 2013 implicated dozens of people, including businessmen, senior bureaucrats and the sons of three now-former ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

The July 22, 2014 operation against the police forces was the first operation of then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s fight against the faith-based Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement and operating in the fields of charity, education and outreach programs inspired by Gülen’s views.

The AK Party and Erdoğan accuse sympathizers of the movement, especially those in the police force and judiciary, of being part of a “parallel structure” working to overthrow his AK Party government and orchestrating the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption and bribery investigation. The movement denies the accusation.

The indictment requests that Yılmazer be sentenced to a prison term of between 616 and 1,924 years for different accusations of crimes against 56 different complainants. The indictment also requests the sentencing of Police Chief Erol Demirhan to prison terms ranging from 1,743 to 5,735 years for different accusations of committing crimes against 175 complainants. Finally, the indictment calls for the sentencing of the remaining 141 suspects to prison terms of between 35 and 878 years each.

According to the indictment, the Gülen movement, which has a presence in more than 160 countries across the world in the form of schools, universities, charitable institutions and business associations and is inspired by the views of the prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, plans to take control of the Turkish government.

Gülen is known for his firm stance against violence and terrorism, and his belief that inter-faith dialogue is necessary for world peace is widely appreciated in the Western world.

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