7 people released in Manisa operation arrested

Dozens of people, including lawyers, doctors, educators and others, were detained in Manisa on Nov. 10 on terrorism charges, in one of the latest police operations that critics say amounts to a political witch hunt.

Seven individuals who were among those released by a Manisa court last Saturday were again taken into custody when the Manisa Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to the court’s decision to release them and demanded the arrest of the seven on Monday. A higher Manisa court assessed the prosecutor’s request and ruled that the arrests be carried out.

Speaking to reporters at a hospital where he was brought for a health check, 56-year-old S.A. stated he did not steal anything and did not take a bribe.

“I even pass a knife to my family by holding its sharp side so as not to frighten anyone. I have been arrested on terror charges,” S.A. said.

Another person arrested on Tuesday, F.U., expressed confusion, saying: “You wake up in the morning and you learn that you have become a terrorist. You don’t know anything about it, have no idea about what is going on.”

The operation became controversial when images of two headscarved women being escorted to police cars in handcuffs made the rounds on social media. The government ordered an investigation into the handcuffing, which legal experts agree was unnecessary and critics say was aimed at intimidating and publicly humiliating the detainees, after reactions mounted. The police chief in Manisa was temporarily suspended, and the governor of the province, Erdogan Bektas, apologized for a statement in which he tried to explain why the police chief was suspended. Bektas ended up being accused of discriminating against women who do not wear headscarf as he said the headscarved women have a “positive image” in society.

The current operation was carried out based on charges that suspects provided financial support to the “parallel structure,” a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to refer to the Hizmet or Gulen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen.

Manisa deputies from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ozgur Ozel and Tur Yıldız Bicer as well as head of the Manisa Bar Association Ali Arslan were at the courthouse to follow the proceedings.

“Justice has been served. But we went through very difficult days recently and we did not deserve it,” Emine Hacıoglu, a bank employee who was among the 20 people who were released on Saturday, said.

“We are sorry we had to leave our friends behind. Those who are responsible for this should feel ashamed,” said Huseyin Cambel, a shopkeeper who was also detained then released. “We left three people whom we believe are innocent there. We are saddened for them,” said Menderes Hırcıner, a lawyer.