An allegation of conspiracy leveled against Jen Psaki, the current White House press secretary, by a Turkish prosecutor in 2015 continues to echo in the criminal justice system in Turkey today, a review of court documents has revealed.
The first shot at Paski, at the time spokesperson for the US Department of State, was fired by then-Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Ismail Uçar, who cited Psaki’s remarks about anti-government protests in Turkey as criminal evidence in an indictment in 2015. The prosecutor’s depiction of Psaki’s comments as part of a global conspiracy against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government were later incorporated into dozens of indictments of critics, opponents and dissidents filed across Turkey.
Commenting on anti-government protests and a violent crackdown by the government during the Gezi Park protests of 2013, Psaki told reporters that Washington was concerned with the number of injuries and was gathering its own information on the incident.
“We believe that Turkey’s long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing,” Psaki told reporters on May 31, 2013.
Uçar, a loyalist and partisan who was handpicked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, quoted Psaki comments in an indictment filed on September 28, 2015 and related it to anti-corruption investigations that were made public in December 2013 that incriminated Erdoğan and his family members. According to his claim, a global conspiracy was initiated against Erdoğan, and the Gezi protests and corruption probes were all part of a calculated campaign to oust him from power. His evidence was, among other peculiar, alleged evidence, Psaki’s expressed concerns over the Turkish government’s crackdown on the protestors.
Prosecutor Ismail Uçar’s 2015 indictment that implicated current White House spokesperson Jen Psaki:Ismail_Ucar_Indictment_Psaki_2015
He charged US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, an outspoken critic of Erdoğan, and dozens of senior police chiefs who were involved in uncovering Erdoğan’s graft network in an Iran sanctions busting scheme that used Turkish banks including state lender Halkbank. Unfortunately, the far-fetched conspiracy and frivolous allegations were treated as solid evidence in courts that were staffed by Erdoğan loyalists.
Uçar was later promoted by the government for going after the president’s critics and opponents and hushing up the corruption probes. He became the chief public prosecutor in Istanbul’s Anadolu jurisdictional district. His wife Çiğdem Uçar was also rewarded on his account and was appointed in 2019 by the president to be a member of the board of Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (Tasarruf Mevduatı Sigorta Fonu, TMSF), a position that pays well. The TMSF has been another tool in the government arsenal for unlawfully seizing more than 1,000 firms owned and operated by critics and opponents in the Gülen movement. The firms that were seized are valued at well over $10 billion.
Similar allegations and Psaki’s comments were repeated verbatim in other indictment files across Turkey by partisan prosecutors who serve as tools in the hands of the Erdoğan regime, which blatantly abuses the criminal justice system in order to stifle dissent, muzzle critical voices and launch crackdowns on the opposition.
For example, Ozan Kaya incorporated Psaki’s comments in criminal indictment file No. No.2016/57 on July 15, 2016 in the province of Sinop. In another indictment (Case File No.2017/1590) filed by prosecutor Ismet Bozkurt against 30 journalists including the country’s top columnists, Psaki’s comments on Turkey were also incorporated to support fabricated coup charges against the critical and independent journalists. Most of the journalists named in the indictment were convicted and sentenced to prison.
The conspiracy allegations against Psaki were later accepted by panels of judges who never questioned the reasoning behind the prosecutors’ motivations for including the spokesperson’s comments in criminal cases that were not supported by solid evidence of any wrongdoing. As a result of such politically motivated indictments and ensuing trials in Turkish courts, hundreds of people were convicted and sentenced to various prison terms.
Page from a 2016 indictment filed by prosecutor Ozan Kaya in Sinop province made reference to Psaki’s comments on Turkey:Indictment_psaki_2016
It is not surprising to see such flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system and criminal procedures given the fact that the Erdoğan government has purged and/or jailed some 30 percent of all judges and prosecutors including members of the Constitutional Court and a UN War Crimes judge since 2015. The rule of law has effectively been suspended, and independent and impartial judicial proceedings have today become a mirage in Erdoğan’s Turkey.
Psaki is not the only US official targeted by President Erdoğan’s partisan judiciary. Laura Lucas Magnuson, the vice president for communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was also cited in criminal indictments for a statement on Turkey during her tenure as director of strategic communications at the National Security Council.
Turkish prosecutors launched criminal case against Brett McGurk, the former US envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). McGurk has been demonized by the government media in Turkey and is often bashed by Turkish officials as part of a huge smear campaign. He currently serves as coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa in Joe Biden’s National Security Council.
The Turkish judiciary, staffed by nationalists, Islamists and neo-nationalists, welcomed conspiracy allegations even if there was no evidence to support the charges as part of a campaign to support the Erdoğan government’s narrative and talking points.
For example, in August 2016 a lawyer named Mert Eryılmaz, a nationalist figure who supports Erdoğan, filed a criminal complaint against Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper and US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, accusing them of plotting a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 and disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization. The lawyer claimed that Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase in Adana, which is used by the Turkish Air Force as well as US forces, was the place where the July 15 “imperialist invasion” was orchestrated. He asked for the base to be temporarily shut down.
Mehmet Sarı, 42-year old Islamist and graduate of the İHL religious school from the central province of Çorum who filed a criminal complaint in April 2017 against more than a dozen US nationals, accusing them of attempting to overturn the constitutional order, render the functioning of parliament ineffective and topple the Erdoğan government. Among the suspects named were Senator Charles Schumer, former US federal district attorney Preet Bharara, former CIA Director John Brennan, former CIA Deputy Director and Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen, US academic Henri J. Barkey, US author and political analyst Graham E. Fuller and several Turkish-Americans who are affiliated with the Gülen movement, a Turkish group that is critical of Erdoğan government.