Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld prison sentences handed down to Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca and former police chiefs on terrorism charges for allegedly slandering the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Tahşiyeciler, the Kronos news website reported.
Karaca, who has been behind bars since December 2014, was given a jail sentence of 18 years on charges of leading a terrorist organization, while former police chiefs including Yurt Atayün and Ali Fuat Yılmazer were sentenced to 12 years each on charges of membership in a terrorist organization by a high criminal court in İstanbul in November 2017.
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals concluded the appeals process on Tuesday. The court, however, annulled the sentences given to some of the defendants including Karaca and Atayün on charges of forgery of official documents.
In an operation on Dec. 14, 2014, former Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Karaca and a number of soap opera scriptwriters and police officers were detained on charges of terrorism and membership in an organization that conspired against Tahşiyeciler based on a speech by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in 2009 in which Gülen warned against a group that “might” be called Tahşiyeciler and whose leader, Mehmet Doğan, had publicly praised Osama bin Laden.
The prosecutors who ordered the Dec. 14 detentions claim that following Gülen’s speech, Dumanlı ordered two columnists to write about Tahşiyeciler and that he published a news report on the speech. The allegations also claim that Samanyolu TV made implications about the group in an episode of a soap opera it broadcast. It was further claimed that the police then “unfairly” raided the group.
Previous reports by police intelligence, military intelligence and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had described Tahşiyeciler as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
In a 2009 live broadcast on CNN Türk, the leader of the Tahşiyeciler group stated that he liked former al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.
The former police chiefs and people linked to the Gülen movement became targets of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) following corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated the inner circle of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The crackdown on the Gülen movement culminated with a failed coup attempt in July 2016 as the AKP government holds the movement responsible for the abortive putsch despite a strong denial from the movement.