Turkey Puts Gulen on Trial

Turkey Puts Gulen on Trial Turkey Puts Gulen on Trial

The US-based cleric who has emerged as the arch foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan goes on trial with dozens of former police officers on Wednesday over the publication in 2013 of graft claims that rocked Turkey’s strongman.

The trial at Istanbul’s main courthouse is part of a crackdown against the movement of cleric Fethullah Gulen, which the government describes as a battle against a “parallel state” but opponents say amounts to repression of critics, France24 reported.

Gulen, 74, was an ally of Erdogan when his Justice and Development Party, AKP, came to power in 2002.

But the two fell out as Gulen’s own influence increased and the government blamed his movement for the stunning corruption allegations against Erdogan’s inner circle, including his own son Bilal, that broke in December 2013.

Gulen, who lives in exile in a secluded compound in the US state of Pennsylvania, will be tried in absentia.

He stands charged of “attempting to bring down the government” and “running a terrorist group”, his lawyer Nurullah Albayrak said.

Gulen is accused of giving orders to allies in Turkey’s police force to launch the probe. But Albayrak said that the evidence offered by the prosecutors in the 1,453 page-long indictment failed to support these claims.

“There is no evidence that this was a terrorist organization. The charges are based on assumptions and on simple declarations and these are not enough,” he said.

“The only proof they have is a single phone call made by my client (Gulen) to a police officer the day the scandal broke, and in that one, there is no indication that he is giving orders to anyone.”

Prosecutors are seeking an aggravated life term -- the highest penalty possible in Turkey -- for Gulen and two former police chiefs.

The other 66 suspects in the case, most of them police officers charged with being members of an armed organization, face jail time ranging from seven years to 330 years.

Gulen is currently being investigated in two other cases but Wednesday’s trial is the most high-profile as it directly concerns the corruption scandal, which posed one of the biggest challenges to Erdogan in his career first as premier and now as president.