Condemnation erupts from all political sides as it is revealed that prosecutors in the Ergenekon case ordered the Police Department to investigate 15,000 young students because their scholarships came from a charity with suspected links to the alleged coup plotters
ÇYDD's former head Türkan Saylan with some of the students her organization provided scholarships for.
A police investigation into 15,000 scholarship students for possible links to terrorist groups was condemned by all political parties over the weekend.
Prosecutors in charge of the controversial Ergenekon investigation asked the police to investigate all 15,000 female students who received scholarships from the Support for Contemporary Living Association, or ÇYDD, and the Police Department formed a special commission to investigate each of the girls.
The ÇYDD, which provides scholarships to girls from poor backgrounds, was the target of the Ergenekon investigation in April, with the home of the founder and head of the nongovernmental organization, Türkan Saylan, being searched while she was ill at the time.
The targeting of Saylan, a respected academic and philanthropist, was condemned at the time as well. Saylan died in May and Professor Aysel Çelikel replaced her as the head of ÇYDD.
More than 200 suspects, including former generals, journalists, businessmen and academics, have been accused in the Ergenekon investigation of plotting a coup to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government. The alleged gang, dubbed Ergenekon by the media, is accused of planning a series of criminal acts that would create instability and instigate a military coup.
The targeting of Saylan was believed to be a result of her taking part in the anti-AKP Republican Rallies in 2007. Ergenekon prosecutors argue that the Republican Rallies were basically an effort to create public support for the Ergenekon gang’s objectives.
Those who oppose the Ergenekon investigation argue that the case is just an AKP ploy to punish pro-secularist opposition.
The police raid on ÇYDD offices in April was widely condemned. The police seized various documents, including a list of 15,000 student who received scholarships from the organization. Prosecutor’s requested that the police check all the names on the list for links to terrorist groups, including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front, or DHKP/C.
The Police Department formed a work group to go through the list and has submitted their report to the prosecutor’s office. The report has yet to be made public.
All political parties condemn the investigation:
The prosecutors’ demand for the police to go over the whole scholarship list for possible links to terrorist groups has been condemned by senior members of all political parties in Parliament.
While AKP deputy leaders Abdülkadir Aksu and Edibe Sözen preferred not to comment on the matter, the party’s Karaman deputy, Mevlüt Akgün, said he believed the investigation of scholarship students was wrong, adding that no matter how widely democratic reforms were carried out, the most important issue was a change in mentality.
“Investigations focusing on the links of scholarship students are against the principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Democratization cannot by be imposed by the government. It should be supported by all, including the judiciary,” he said.
Dergir Mir Mehmet Fırat, the deputy from Adana, said he did not know why the prosecutors would want such a broad investigation. He described the police report as “unnecessary,” noting that if there was suspicion regarding a certain individual, then that individual alone should be investigated.
“I don’t think such an investigation of such a magnitude was warranted,” he said, adding that efforts to democratize the country were running against the habits of the last century.
The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, spokesman Mustafa Özyürek said the state was punishing the ÇYDD and the poor girls in the east and the southeast of the country instead of thanking them.
He blamed the government for allowing such an investigation to happen. “At a time when the government is claiming to be helping citizens of Kurdish origin by improving democracy and rights, it is also viewing poor girls trying to get an education as potential criminals,” he said.
He described the investigation as “unacceptable.”
CHP deputy leader Yılmaz Ateş was equally scathing of what he described as “governmental discrimination.”
“The government says it would support the east of the country while it does everything it can to discourage an NGO that is helping the region’s poor girls,” he said.
Halide İncekara, the CHP deputy form Istanbul, was more cautious in her remarks, noting that the police needed to be more careful in their efforts.
“The police have their own duties. To tell them not to do it would be interference. On the other hand, there are thousands of innocent children. What the police should do is to perform their duties without creating a public furor,” she said.
Not in line with the times:
Sevahir Bayındır, the deputy from Şırnak for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, said while the Ergenekon gang was a threat to stability, it was wrong to include female students in the investigation. “No matter what the ÇYDD’s ideology is, it has helped those who applied for an education. The investigation of scholarship students does not really conform with the times,” he said.
The DTP’s parliamentary group deputy leader Gültan Kışanak said the investigation was against everything a democratic state governed by the rule should stand for.
“This is a violation of human rights and shows that the state sees its citizens as suspects. The state cannot have the right to investigate whoever it wants,” said Kışanak.