This time the Gülenists were caught red-handed.
In March 2009, a non-commissioned officer (NCO) serving on an air force base in the central Turkish town of Kayseri confessed to planting forged documents on a military computer, on instructions from his Gülenist mentor. His detailed account provides a rare glimpse of how Gülenists use their network to infiltrate the military and frame targeted officers with fabricated material. Equally important, the aftermath of the episode shows how Gülenists are able to manipulate the judiciary to cover up their tracks and turn the tables on those who shed light on their misdeeds.
The NCO told investigators that he had a long-standing affiliation with the Gülen movement. As a high school student he had spent time in “Işık Evleri.” Translated as “Light Houses” these are dorms and centers of instruction run by adherents of Fethullah Gülen. After finishing military school and getting posted to Kayseri, he was contacted by an “older brother” he knew from Işık Evleri and asked to rent a flat with two other NCOs he was introduced to.
The three soldiers were visited frequently by a succession of “older brothers” from the movement over the years. They were given books by Fethullah Gülen and instructed about his teachings.
In February 2009, one of these “older brothers” gave the NCO a USB drive that contained two forged Word documents bearing the name of the Kayseri base commander. One of them was based on a real document, but with key text deleted to make it look like the commander had blacklisted some of the local restaurants. The second was an entirely fabricated document calling on army personnel to assist an officer jailed on charges of being a member of the so-called “Ergenekon terror organization.”
Following his Gülenist mentor’s instructions, the NCO entered these files on the computerized document management system in the base, using another soldier’s account name and password. With the documents in the system and their authenticity thereby established, they could now be leaked to the media and townspeople to wage a campaign against the base commander.
In the long saga of deception, manipulation, framing and other dirty tricks to which Turkish politics has succumbed in recent years, this is merely a minor episode. But the case is important as it lays bare Gülen adherents’ modus operandi. It sheds light on how some of the most significant court cases Gülenists have mounted against their opponents – such as Balyoz/Sledgehammer, OdaTV, or “Islak Imza” – could be erected on fake and planted evidence.
What makes the story even more telling, however, is what happened next, following the NCO’s confession.
Stories began to appear in the Gülenist media that the confession had been extracted under “torture.” Lacking evidence of physical harm, the NCO’s new lawyers argued that the method of torture employed was “hypnosis.” The military prosecutor who carried out the investigation, Colonel Zeki Üçok, was hounded and became the subject of a growing mountain of allegations – everything from bribery to planning a coup to availing himself of Russian prostitutes. Details of his life, down to his shopping lists, were leaked to the media. Colonel Üçok’s assistant and a secretary were compelled to give false testimony saying that Üçok carried out his investigation on his own and in secret, openly contradicting the signatures that verify their presence along all stages of the proceedings.
Üçok has rejected the accusation that hypnosis was used during the questioning. Not only does the charge seem far-fetched, it also flies in the face of the documented details of the case. A single medical report, obtained months later, claimed to find evidence of hypnosis – quite a feat of medical forensics given the time that had elapsed in between. In fact, the NCO had received multiple medical, psychological and pharmacological examinations during the period he was detained and questioned, and none of those tests indicated mistreatment. Neither had the NCO complained to his lawyers or anyone else about mistreatment, until the torture allegations began to surface in the media. His statement was taken in the presence of his (first set of) lawyers. And the specialist who is alleged to have carried out the hypnosis – a retired officer Colonel Üçok invited to Kayseri to help him with the case – was not even present when the NCO gave his first confession (he arrived in town a day later!).
No matter. The NCO recanted, and he was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to his military post. Colonel Üçok, meanwhile, was thrown in jail, where he remains to this day, forced to defend himself against a series of charges one more absurd than the other.
So next time you hear Gülen sympathizers wax eloquent about dialogue, peace, moderation, democracy and justice, think of what happened in Kayseri and to Colonel Üçok.
UPDATE AND CORRECTION: The NCO confessed to planting only one of the two documents mentioned above (the one with the fictitious instruction asking military personnel to provide assistance to an Ergenekon defendant). The second (altered) document was circulated separately.