The Army of the Imam: Trial of the Gülden Parish
After the article of 10 January 1999 in the journal “Enlightenment” (Aydınlık) under the headline of “Fethullah took over the police” further investigations were carried out. This time they ended in a court case, but a verdict of acquittal. The details in the book "The Army of the Imam" have been restructured and summarized.
Ankara Police HQ becomes active
On 18 March 1999 Ankara Chief of Police Cevdet Saral sent a letter to the Presidency of the Inspecting Council and the Presidency of the Intelligence Department on the subject of “Fethullah Gülen and the Light (Işık) Sect”. The question was asked whether the Fethullah Gülen movement and his sect had an organizational structure and whether this organization aimed at destroying the existing Constitutional order of the State and establish a system based on the sharia. It was alleged that organizing of the sect in educational institutions of the police such as the police colleges and the Police Academy had taken a systematic nature. The letter continued in saying:
“The Fethullah Gülen Parish is outside the habitual organization model of structures within a State. According to the sect the offices are primary and the persons are secondary... The Light Sect is not active through the 62 people against whom persecution is demanded; on the list are people unrelated to the sect; the investigation has to be carried out by a small number of trustworthy personnel... It also has to be researched, whether the issue falls under the State Security Courts.”
On 21 March 1999 Fethullah Gülen emigrated to the USA under the pretext of medical treatment. Meanwhile the rumour spread that Ankara Police HQ prepared a comprehensive list of police officers from the Gülen group. About 400 persons were said to be on the list. When the General Director for Security, Necati Bilican got hold of such a list he ordered that the persons with main responsibility for the investigation, Osman Ak, deputy chair of intelligence, Ersan Dalman, chair of the intelligence department and his deputy Zafer Aktaş be dismissed from their posts. However, Cevdet Saral, Ankara Chief of Police, supported his staff and did not execute the order.
Second report and faulty list
Cevdet Saral sent a second report to the General Directorate for Security, the Presidency of the Inspecting Council and the Presidency of the Intelligence Department. The report was carefully prepared, but not the list of names of officers to be dismissed from the intelligence department. There were even repetitions in it. Among the 132 names Abdul Serdar Saçan, who had tried to open an investigation against the Gülen Parish when he was the director of the smuggling and organized crime department in Istanbul, was put in tenth place. Three steps above him was Hanefi Avcı. He was not listed because of his statements critical of the army after the 28 February memorandum or the fact that his children attended one of the schools of the parish.
From the intelligence department in Diyarbakır Avcı had come to Istanbul under Necdet Menzir as Chief of Istanbul Police. He was known for his successes in the fight against terrorist organizations, not only by tapping phones but also conducting operations that ended in extra-judicial killings. Despite the fact that he had been imprisoned in connection with such an allegation police officer Osman Ak came from Ankara and asked him to work for the intelligence department there. Two years later Avcı became the deputy chief of the intelligence department. Shortly afterwards he made sure that Osman Ak was transferred to Artvin for lack of discipline. Osman Ak said that the Fethullahçıs were behind this transfer and made sure that Hanefi Avcı was put on the list in fourth place.
The list was also criticized by journalists opposed to Fethullah Gülen. One of them was Uğur Dündar. He argued that high ranking police officers with great successes against the Mafia and gangs had been put on the list. Years later it was learned that more than half of the persons listed had no connection to the Gülen Parish. A high ranking officer said: “Did I not know Cevdet Saral and Osman Ak I would say that they compiled the list to whiten the organization of Fethullah Gülen.”
Unaware of the developments against them Cevdet Saral and his deputy Osman Ak sent the report to the prosecutor at Ankara SSCState Security Court . On the report of 21 April 1999 the prosecutor Nuh Mete Yüksel started an investigation. The report alleged that Fethullah Gülen used some terms in his book to hide his true aim that was to erect a theocratic regime based on the hegemony of a clan... Fethullah Gülen often used words such as Light Houses, Light Barracks, Light Cavalry and Light Soldiers creating the strong impression to be building an organizational structure. The report concluded that the speeches of Gülen himself showed that the crime of terror as described in Article 1 of Law 3713 to Fight Terrorism by threatening with demoralization and intimidation was fulfilled, although currently it was impossible to speak of an armed association.
Objections to the reports
Later reports appeared in the press that the report from Ankara Police HQ was incorrect. Journalist Soner Arıkanoğlu reported that on appeal of some persons mentioned in the report superintendents of the police worked a year on the issue and on 13 June 2000 concluded that the report was incorrect. There was no evidence that the accused individuals had any connection to the Gülen Parish. Osman Ak, deputy Chief of Ankara Police and Ersan Dalman, former director of the intelligence department were dismissed and Ankara Chief of Police, Cevdet Saral was to be punished with late promotion.
The prosecutor at Ankara SSC Nuh Mete Yüksel finished his investigation in about one year. On 3 August 2000 he asked the court to issue an arrest warrant against Fethullah Gülem. This was done on a second attempt, but on 28 August 2000 the arrest warrant in absentia was lifted. Yet, Ankara SSC accepted the indictment of 22 August 2000 charging Gülen with an offence under Article 7/1 of the Law to Fight Terrorism. The offence of changing the Constitutional system and establishing a State based on Islamic principles carried a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The report of the General Directorate for Security
As part of the ongoing court case a report was requested from the General Directorate for Security on the aim and strategy of the Fethullah Gülen group and Nur Parish. The response carried the date of 13 October 2000. It said that there had been no armed actions. It explained the foundation, organization and intention and in particular the activities in the educational sector. On the points in question the report stated:
Fethullah Gülen, registered in Korucuk village of Pasinler district in Erzurum province, son of Ramiz and Rabia was born on 27.04.1941 (corrected to the original 1942), started to work as teacher (hodja) at the Qu'ran course in Kestane Pazarı in Izmir province in 1968. Mainly in Bornova district of Izmir province, but also in provinces such as Edirne, Kırklareli, Balıkesir, Manisa and Çanakkale he worked as imam and preacher. Because of his affecting speeches and sermons a group gathered around him from different sections.
Fethullah Gülen was first active in the New Asia group, the biggest fan in the Nur Parish. He was particularly known for his sermons. He defended that it was wrong to put daily politics in front of everything. Their aim was to tell the society the truth of faith. When he found support among businessmen he left the New Asia group in 1970 and formed the group that is known by his name. In 1978 the Turkish Teacher Foundation (Türkiye Öğretmenler Vakfı, TÖV-İzmir) started to publish the journal “Leakage” (Sızıntı). In 1980 there was an initiative with the distribution of his cassettes, speeches at various places and the support of volunteers of students of Said Nursi.
Because of the negative image of the term Nurculuk he never said that he was a Nurcu. When quoting Said Nursi he did not mention his name. With the help of businessmen he founded many companies and foundations and opened many schools, dormitories and classes. An intense activity of trade can be observed.
The media structure and the propaganda activities that get attention in public are based on the idea of Said Nursi seen as the natural leader of the group in terms of “Faith, Life and Reign”. The current phase is the vitalization of faith and the level of living. The “golden generation” will be educated and the golden generation will ensure governance. In the implementation of this strategy the devotion to F. Gülen is basic. A large number of individuals in the parish see F.Gülen as the Mehdi (the last messiah).
In order not to catch attention in and outside the country the members of the parish use the word “Light” (Nur) instead of Nurcu that has a bad connotation in public. Obedience is very important in the parish and those who do not abide by the rules are reported to the administrative cadres.
Aim and Structure
The aim of the F.Gülen group is to have a say in the political and economic power balance in Turkey. However, as long as the group does not believe in its own power direct contacts and an open political stand are avoided. The basis for this the finding of Said Nursi who said that in order that Islam becomes dominant in Turkey 50 to 60 % of the population have to be strong believers. In the first place the movements wants to grow and has concentrated on youngsters as human resources and shop owners as source for money and logistics.
Relating to the structure the classification of Said Nursi as “Student-Friend-Sympathizer” becomes important.
- Student: person in the parish
- Friend: Persons contacted for the benefit of the parish
- Sympathizer: Person with a positive approach to the parish
The problems that the students cannot solve are forwarded to the regional imams, if they cannot solve them they are forwarded to the provincial imams. This is a hierarchy organized from the bottom to the top. The responsibilities mainly on educational activities start with the country and go down to the level of specific homes.
On activities of the Gülen Parish educational and media institutions are mentioned.
The trial at Ankara SSC
The trial started at Ankara State Security Court (SC) on 16 October 2000 and ended on 10 March 2003. Relying on Law 4616 (known as the amnesty of Rahşan Ecevit) the case was suspended under the condition that the same offence would not be committed within the next five years. After changes to the Penal Code and the Law to Fight Terrorism the lawyers of Fethullah Gülen on 7 March 2006 asked for a retrial arguing that the client had to be acquitted. In 2003 Article 1 of the Law to Fight Terrorism had been changed by adding the condition of violence in an act to become a terrorist offence. The lawyers argued that there was no evidence that their clients ever used violence. During the hearing of 5 May 2006 the prosecutor Salim Demirci asked that the defendants be convicted but Ankara Heavy Penal Court 11 (having replaced Ankara SSC) ruled on acquittal. On 5 May 2008 the 9th Penal Chamber at the Court of Cassation confirmed the acquittal.
Prior to this development the lawyers had asked the General Directorate for Security as part of their right for information on an evaluation of foundations, association and educational institutions allegedly related to Fethullah Gülen. The answer of 3 March 2006 signed by Deputy Director for Security Ramazan Er stated that the mentioned institutions could not be evaluated under Article 1 of the Law to Fight Terrorism and there was no evidence that they had gathered in order to change the Constitutional order of the State.
Investigations in Istanbul
In Istanbul Adil Serdar Saçan, Director of the Department to Fight Smuggle and Organized Crimes asked for permission to investigate against the Gülen Parish. On 23 July 2001 the chief prosecutor at Istanbul SSC, Aykut Engin Cengiz gave permission. In 2008 Adil Serdan Saçan became one of the defendants in the Ergenekon trial. In court he stated: “In June 2001 Hasan Özdemir once again became Istanbul Chief of Police. I told him that the structure of the Fethullahçıs had taken a dangerous position in the ranks of the police. Hasan Özdemir did not take that seriously and appointed a few officers from the intelligence department to other places. After I got permission from Istanbul SSC to investigate Istanbul Governor Erol Çakır as well as the deputy Prime Minister put me under pressure. Although the communications had been termed “highly confidential” it was immediately leaked to the parish. The Fethullahçıs swore in 2001 to take revenge and started rumours that I was in contact with Veli Küçük and Sedat Peker,
In his defence Saçan also pointed at some “coincidences”: “At the beginning of my defence I stated that 1980 three deputy commissioners were appointed to the Police Academy. They visited the Light Houses. I stated that one of them was R.A., who is still leading the intelligence department. When R.A. was Trabzon Chief of Police the priest Santaro was killed and Mc Donalds was bombed. The second deputy commissioner was A.O.K. He became Malatya Chief of Police. There the massacre at Zirve Publishing House occurred. The third one is Mustafa Sağlam. In June 1999 he became Diyarbakır Chief of Police.
The series of translated passages
- The Army of the Imam: Who are the Nurcus?
- The Army of the Imam: Who is Fethullah Gülen?
- The Army of the Imam: Infiltrating the Police
- The Army of the Imam: Trial of the Gülden Parish
- The Army of the Imam: Avcı, Ergenekon and Epilogue
- ↑ Daily Hürriyet of 30 May 1999
- ↑ The phone tapping affair (Telekulak) is mentioned that cost Cevdet Saral and Osman Ak their posts; compare a comment in Hürriyet Daily News of 23 August 2010
- ↑ Daily Radikal, 14 September 2000
- ↑ 4.04.1 Cited according to http://www.celalulgen.av.tr/savunma/Savunma.pdf