Mehmet Ali Çelebi, a former lieutenant who was a defendant in the trial of the clandestine Ergenekon organization, has joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to an announcement Çelebi made on social media.
Çelebi on Tuesday announced in a statement he released on Twitter that he would continue his political career in the ranks of the ruling AKP and under the roof of the Public Alliance – made up of the AKP and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – and thanked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for inviting him.
— Mehmet Ali Çelebi (@celebimehmeta) October 11, 2022
Çelebi was arrested in 2008 on the accusation of “membership in a terrorist organization” and was a defendant in the Ergenekon trial, in which dozens of people, mainly military officers, were prosecuted for allegedly plotting a coup against the AKP government.
Although he was sentenced to 16 and a half years in prison, he was released in 2014 after spending only three years, five months behind bars.
Çelebi then resigned from the Turkish Armed Forces and entered politics. He was elected as a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the 2018 polls.
After resigning from the CHP, he joined the opposition Homeland Party (MP), led by Muharrem İnce, a former CHP lawmaker who ran against Erdoğan in the presidential election of 2018. Çelebi also resigned from the MP on Feb. 25.
The Turkish public for the first time witnessed the mass arrest of high-ranking military officers in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup plot trials between 2008 and 2016, with the defendants accused of having attempted to overthrow the AKP government. Although Erdoğan fully backed the prosecutors during the Ergenekon trials, many high-profile defendants were released in March 2014 after Erdoğan forged an alliance with Ergenekon, months after the December 17-25, 2013 corruption cases that targeted the then-prime minister and current president’s inner circle, including his son Bilal Erdoğan.
Turkey’s ODA TV, closely linked to the military establishment, reported on March 14, 2014 that Erdoğan ensured the release of military officers to fight against his former ally, the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Instead of making the trial of those implicated on corruption charges possible, Erdoğan attempted to convince the public that the corruption cases were part of a coup attempt against his government being carried out by Gülen movement-affiliated police and prosecutors. Since then, Erdoğan has established a relationship with the convicted military officers who planned the coup attempts against him in 2003 and 2004.
As secular figures continue to join the AKP, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last week appointed Metin Feyzioğlu, the former chairman of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), as Turkey’s ambassador to the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which is not officially recognized by any country other than Turkey.
Previously a critic of President Erdoğan, Feyzioğlu’s relations with Turkey’s strongman improved over time during his tenure as TBB chair between 2013 and 2021.
Many lawyers criticized what they saw as Feyzioğlu’s pro-government stance, with him coming under fire for failing to speak out for lawyers during an unprecedented crackdown on the profession after a failed coup in 2016 and support bar association chairpersons and lawyers during their protests against a bill that critics say was aimed at silencing the bar associations, one of the few remaining institutions that still oppose the government’s stance on the rule of law and human rights. In June 2020 six members of the TBB resigned to protest Feyzioğlu’s attitude toward their colleagues.