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Former Ankara mayor not to be investigated over Gülen links

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Prosecutors have decided that there are no legal grounds to investigate the former mayor of Turkey’s capital city due to his relationship with the faith-based Gülen movement, local media outlets reported.

Former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was the subject of criminal complaints due to his links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and opposition politicians accused Gökçek of illegally allocating land to institutions linked to the Gülen movement while he was mayor of Ankara.

In the criminal complaints, Gökçek was accused of spreading terrorist propaganda, violating the law on the finance of terrorism, membership in a terrorist organization and aiding a terrorist organization; however, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said there were no grounds to investigate Gökçek because his support for the movement occurred before it was declared a terrorist organization by the government.

The prosecutor’s office took the Dec.17-25, 2013 corruption investigations, which implicated senior members of the AKP government, as the date for the recognition of the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization; however, courts render different judgements on this, and thousands of people face criminal charges or have been arrested for their relationship with the movement before this date.

The AKP government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt in July 2016.

In an interview in 2016, Gökçek acknowledged having had good relations with the Gülen movement and supporting it in the past, but he said his assistance to the movement was within the boundaries of the law. Gökçek also said both of his sons studied at Gülen-linked schools.

Following the corruption investigations and the coup attempt, thousands of people were investigated on terrorism charges and arrested due to their ties to the Gülen movement simply because they sent their children to the Gülen-linked schools, deposited money at a Gülen-affiliated bank or subscribed to a newspaper associated with Gülen.

Gülen followers say they face judicial proceedings for actions that do not constitute a crime, while pro-government figures who had similar relations with the Gülen movement in the past are immune from prosecution.

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