A German national of Turkish origin was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison in Turkey’s central province of Corum for helping poor students and the families of jailed Gülenists, documents revealed.
Ahmet Can, a 50-year-old Turk who holds German nationality, was investigated and indicted for providing food and supplies to university students in need and helping the struggling families of jailed members of the Gülen movement, a group highly critical of the Turkish government, in Çorum.
His phone conversations with students and families were wiretapped; his movements were subjected to surveillance; and his workplace was secretly bugged with listening devices and cameras. His conversations, offering no criminal evidence or any terrorist activity, were presented in court as if they were solid evidence against him, resulting in his conviction and sentencing to eight years in prison.
Police interrogation report on Ahmet Can:Ahmet_Can2
Can was detained by the police on April 26, 2019 and referred to court for arraignment by a prosecutor in Çorum on April 29 on charges of terrorism. He was released under a travel ban and ordered to report to a police station on a regular basis. On November 6, 2019 the Çorum 2nd High Criminal Court convicted him on terrorism charges and sentenced him to eight years, one month and 15 days.
Can, brought to Germany when he was only three years old by his migrant father in 1973, was educated in German schools and worked there until 2005, when he had to retire due to a disability. He returned to his hometown in Turkey in 2005 and settled there with his family. He took a part time job in small silversmith’s shop, producing handmade beads and decorating rings, watches and other pieces of jewelry on request. He was paid a commission for his services.
During questioning, he was asked whether he was a member of a union, association or other nongovernmental organization affiliated with the Gülen movement or if he had attended anti-government protests. He denied being a member of any such organization or attending any protests. He also defended himself by saying that he only helped university students with food because they were tutoring his sons. His wife Züleyha had given some money to women in need when they or their husbands were prosecuted on terrorism charges and unlawfully imprisoned. Can’s privately paid lectures on the German language were also described as criminal activity during the trial.
The investigation file shows his phone had been wiretapped between December 15, 2018 and April 2019 and that he had been placed under close surveillance by the police, which monitored all his movements, where he went and with whom he met.
Although he was indicted on terrorism charges, the transcript of the wiretaps and surveillance reports do not indicate any terrorist activity or violence. For example, in one report, dated December 15, 2018 he was spotted while shopping for food in a local store with another man, and the two, joined by Can’s wife, later went to a house to deliver food to an elderly woman. When asked at the police station what that was all about, he said they helped an old woman with a heart condition. She was taking care of her grandchild because her adult son was in prison.
In a wiretap dated February 7, 2019 Can was recorded talking to his wife about dinner preparations for students who were invited to come to their home. His wife Züleyha was asking him to buy desert for the dinner. Police later questioned him about the dinner and concluded that it was terrorist activity. He denied the charges. The phone conversations about his wife’s baking of cakes and pastries for students at other times were also recorded and were brought up during the interrogation by the police.
Can’s travels to Germany where his two sons still reside were also monitored by the Turkish police. For example, a surveillance report dated February 20, 2019 showed that the police secretly followed his travel by bus from Çorum to Ankara, from where he flew to Germany. The police were waiting for him when he returned eight days later and observed his trip from the airport to his hometown.
According to the police reports, Can’s workplace was also bugged and his conversations with his guests and clients were recorded. From still-shots taken from the ceiling, it appeared the police also installed secret cameras to record comings and goings in the silversmith shop.
During interrogation he faced questions about his everyday conversations with others on issues ranging from politics to the economy. For example, in one report dated February 4, 2019 he was heard talking to an unidentified person about how he would cast his vote for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the upcoming local elections. Can was saying it would be better to support the HDP than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). During the questioning police brought up this conversation and asked why he had been trying to convince his customer to vote for the HDP, as if such an act constituted criminal activity under Turkish law.
Critics of the Erdoğan government, especially members of the Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment and threats of death and abduction since 2014, when then-Prime Minister and now President Erdoğan decided to scapegoat the group for his own legal troubles, ranging from corruption to aiding and abetting jihadist groups in Syria. Foreign citizens and dual nationals including Americans and Europeans were prosecuted and imprisoned in Turkey on false terrorism charges as the government intensified the crackdown on opposition groups to silence critical voices and supress the right to dissent.
The Erdoğan government brands all its critics as terrorists, and 166 journalists are currently in Turkish jails on terrorism charges, making Turkey the world’s leading jailer of journalists. Over 30 percent of all Turkish diplomats, 60 percent of all senior police chiefs, half of all generals and some 30 percent of all judges and prosecutors in Turkey were also declared terrorists overnight in 2016 by the executive decisions of the Erdoğan government without any effective administrative investigations and certainly without any judicial proceedings.
In July 2017 German newspaper Die Zeit reported that Turkey had handed Germany a list of 68 companies and individuals suspected of links to terrorism due to alleged ties to the Gülen movement. It was also revealed that nearly 700 German firms including industry giants Daimler and BASF were being investigated for the “financing of terrorism,” lodged with Interpol by Turkey. After Germany reacted strongly to the witch-hunt and threatened economic sanctions, Turkey backed down and claimed that it was simply a miscommunication.
In Turkey, over half a million people affiliated with the Gülen movement have been put in detention facilities on fabricated terrorism charges in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. Since then, more than 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed by the government with no effective judicial or administrative investigation, 4,560 of whom were judges and prosecutors and were replaced by pro-Erdogan staff. As a result of the massive purge, the Turkish judiciary and law enforcement authorities have become tools in the hands of the Islamist government of President Erdoğan.