A Turkish prosecutor listed membership in and activity with the International Police Association (IPA), the largest police association in the world, as criminal acts, a claim that was later approved by a judge with no question asked.
According to official documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, investigating prosecutor Osman Çabuk in the western province of Afyonkarahisar made a totally absurd allegation that trips abroad made by Turkish police officers as IPA members should be considered acts of terrorism.
In a letter dated August 17, 2016 and circulated among various branches of the government, Çabuk also revealed the fact that many police officers had been suspended by provincial governors because they were members of the IPA. He asked a judge to issue detention warrants for the suspended officers on multiple dubious charges and search warrants for their residences as part of criminal investigation No.2016/8277.
Without offering any detail or rationale, the prosecutor alleged that IPA members are affiliated with the Gülen movement, a civic group that is critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a range of issues, from pervasive corruption to the aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups.
The prosecutor claimed that merely being a member of the IPA and making trips abroad to attend IPA activities are distinct characteristics of being Gülenist and therefore must be investigated as part of a counterterrorism probe.
Turkish prosecutor’s document that lists participation in IPA activities as a criminal act:IPA_listed_as_criminal_entity_in_Turkey
The bizarre and unjustified move is one of many examples that indicated the blatant abuse of criminal procedures at the hands of an authoritarian government that targeted unsuspecting and law-abiding citizens with no criminal background. The malicious prosecution of police officers for affiliation with the IPA represents the rapid backslide of the rule of law in a country that has the largest number of incarcerations in Europe on terrorism charges.
According to statistics issued by the Council of Europe (CoE), as of January 2020 out of 30,524 prisoners convicted on terrorism charges in the 47 CoE member states, 29,827 were in Turkey. In other words, 98 percent of all inmates convicted of terrorism in all of Europe are resident in Turkey. It shows how the government abuses counterterrorism laws to punish critics, opponents and dissidents in this country of 84 million that suffers under the iron grip of President Erdoğan.
In an unprecedented move in the history of the Turkish Republic, the Erdoğan government launched a series of purges of the police department, the country’s main law enforcement agency with a staff of close to 300,000, in the aftermath of the December 2013 corruption probes, which incriminated Erdoğan’s family members and business and political associates. The purge, apparently aimed at hushing up the graft investigations, was intensified in 2016 after a false flag coup attempt that was orchestrated by the Erdoğan government to create a pretext for a mass purge of close to 100,000 civil servants.
In the police force alone, the government purged some 33,000 police officers including many senior and veteran chiefs who had worked in critical departments such as counterterrorism and organized crime for decades. It staffed the vacated posts with Islamists, nationalists and neo-nationalists, often with no experience, while launching criminal probes into those who were dismissed from their positions with no effective administrative or judicial investigation whatsoever.
Before the mass purge of the force, the police department had actively encouraged its current and retired members to engage with the IPA, and many senior police chiefs had participated in IPA meetings.
The Turkish police department’s participation in the IPA was certainly not without problems. Its relationship with the IPA actually went back to 1970, when its police department became a member. But the relationship turned rocky when Turkey did not fulfill its membership obligations. The IPA initially suspended Turkey and later expelled it when Turkey failed to correct its shortcomings.
In 1994 the Turkish police department tried to become a member again with support from Germany as sponsor for the renewed bid. It finally won membership with voting rights in 2000. As of September 2010, more than 20,000 Turkish police officers, both active and retired, or 10 in every 100 police officers, became members of the IPA. With open support from the leadership of the police department, IPA Turkey expanded its liaison branches in a number of Turkish provinces.
The IPA even held its world congress in Turkey’s Antalya province in October 2009. The IPA Turkey branch hosted another meeting to advocate for road safety in a global campaign in April 2013.
However the corruption investigations pursued by the police and the incrimination of senior government officials in an Iran sanctions busting scheme landed many police chiefs in hot water in December 2013. The Erdoğan government dubbed the probes as a “judicial/law enforcement coup” and started dismissing police chiefs who were involved in uncovering the country’s largest-ever corruption scandal in multibillion-dollar schemes.
The purge that started in January 2014 dealt a serious blow to the IPA’s outreach activities in Turkey, with the Erdoğan government severing ties with organization. The government branded the IPA Turkey branch as an espionage outfit without offering any evidence and issued a circular in August 2014 ordering that all ties to the IPA be severed. The facilities provided for the use of the Turkey IPA branch were taken away and the officers who were helping with IPA activities overseas were recalled from leaves of absence.
IPA Turkey was eventually disbanded, its website was taken down and many IPA members including IPA Turkey Chairman Erkan Güler and Secretary-General Fatih Vursavaş were arrested, tried and convicted on bogus charges.
Membership in the IPA was entered as criminal evidence into the case file by the prosecutor. On the day Çabuk filed his motion with the court, Judge Ertuğrul Sezer approved Çabuk’s allegation on IPA membership and ordered the detention of 53 police officers and issued search and seizure orders for their residences, vehicles and offices.
Many veteran police chiefs who were members of the IPA have been jailed in Turkey on fabricated charges, although some managed to flee abroad to escape wrongful imprisonment.
Turkish judge’s order listing membership in the IPA as a criminal act:IPA_listed_as_criminal_entity_in_Turkey_judge_warrant