Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has made an individual application to the Constitutional Court for the removal of a slanderous report from a news portal on the grounds that the report violates his personal rights.
The application was made by the scholar’s lawyer, Nurullah Albayrak.
The news report, published by www.medyagundem.com on March 25, claims that Gülen and some members of the faith-based Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Gülen, are threatening people with videos featuring those people having extramarital affairs. The report also refers to Hizmet members as Hashishin, a shadowy group that carried out politically motivated assassinations in the past. This reference to the Hizmet movement was first used by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in mid-January.
According to Albayrak, the report violates Gülen’s personal rights, incites people to hatred and enmity and violates the principle of presumption of innocence, which is enshrined in Article 38 of the Constitution.
Fethullah Gülen’s lawyer initially applied to an Ankara court of peace to order the removal of the slanderous report. The court, however, said it would not, arguing that the report’s publication was within the scope of press freedom. The lawyer later applied to a court of first instance in Ankara to have the report removed. This court also turned down Albayrak’s application.
Albayrak then applied to the Constitutional Court on behalf of Gülen, arguing that they had exhausted all domestic procedures. “The report accuses my client of orchestrating an ‘operation’ against Turkey from abroad, even though there is no ongoing investigation into Gülen to this end. Claims included in the report violate Gülen’s individual rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution. They also violate the principle of presumption of innocence,” the lawyer stated in his petition.
The lawyer also noted that a lower court’s decision that the slanderous report is protected by freedom of the press is not correct.
The report is only one example of a growing campaign of slander against Gülen. The scholar, who has inspired a worldwide religious network that defends peaceful coexistence through dialogue and education, is currently being targeted in a large-scale smear campaign, which is sponsored by the Turkish government.
Media organs close to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government have been publishing stories stating that the scholar and his movement are part of a clandestine organization seeking to overthrow the government. Prime Minister Erdoğan and some officials from his government have raised similar claims and even insulted Gülen and the Hizmet movement. On various occasions the prime minister has called Gülen a “false prophet,” “fake saint” and “bogus scholar.” He has called the Hizmet movement a “parallel state,” “gang,” “illegal organization” and “raving Hashashins.”
A criminal investigation was launched into Gülen in late April. The investigation is based on allegations and news reports that the scholar attempted to overthrow the government, without facts or evidence. The investigation came shortly after Prime Minister Erdoğan publicly said that a formal process would be launched to make the US extradite Gülen. The scholar is in self-imposed exile in the US, though there is no legal hurdle preventing him from returning to Turkey.
The investigation into Fethullah Gülen was initiated following a complaint filed by a former noncommissioned officer identified as C.O. The officer told the media in early May that his complaint against the scholar was based on a number of reports that had appeared in government newspapers. “I am basing my complaint on newspaper reports and my thoughts. I am unhappy. I do not want to be promoted in the media or become popular. I do not like things like this. I have also filed many criminal complaints against the prime minister,” he said.
Prosecutors have so far failed to take action on C.O.’s complaints against the prime minister.