Turkey’s encouragement of informers results in more than 116,000 false tips in 2020

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Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül has announced that 116,170 out of 167,719 tip-offs received by Turkish prosecutors in 2020 were false, throwing into question the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) policies that encourage informers.

According to a Wednesday report in the Birgün daily, Minister Gül pointed to the rise of false tips in a speech delivered while presenting the ministry’s budget proposal to parliament’s Budget and Planning Committee on Tuesday.

“Unjustifiably calling someone a suspect [of a crime] has negative effects not only on that person but also on his or her family, and therefore, the entire society. We are currently working on changes in the legislation to better protect the right against self-incrimination,” the minister underlined.

Following an attempted coup in 2016 that left over 200 people dead, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP government accused members of the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by the teachings of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, of orchestrating it.

The motivation of citizens who have taken it upon themselves to become a volunteer army of informers for the government increased after the coup attempt, when Erdogan said citizens must help and give Gülen movement members up.

“You may have friends from that community. I say: denounce them. You must inform our prosecutors. This is the duty of a patriot,” Erdogan said in a speech three months after the abortive putsch.

Thousands heeded the call, and rewards reached record levels of up to £900,000 ($1,058,000) for the capture of the country’s most-wanted figures. Newspaper pages were filled with extraordinary stories of betrayal among friends, neighbors and even within families following the failed coup.

Although Gülen and his followers strongly deny any coup-related allegations, Ankara launched a crackdown targeting the group in the wake of the abortive putsch, removing over 130,000 civil servants from their jobs and detaining or arresting 80,000 people while prosecuting 511,000 people over links to them.

“Informants have become the new Turkey’s new actors,” said Gamze Akkuş-İlgezdi, a lawmaker and vice chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in June, underlining the increase in the numbers after the country switched to an executive presidential system in 2018.

The number of tip-offs to the police increased by 118 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year, she said in a report, citing the General Directorate of Judicial Recordings and Statistics.

Citizens of Turkey tipped off the police 483 times a day and 20 times an hour, and the total number of tip-offs to prosecutors’ offices was 176,380 she said, adding that the prosecutors decided not to prosecute 72 percent of them.

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