Police chief, colleagues face coup charges for attending funeral

The National Police Department’s anti-terror unit held a conference titled “Fight Against Terrorism Assessment and Coordination Meeting” in the western province of Afyonkarahisar from Dec. 12 to 14, 2013. Terrorism unit heads and their assistants from Turkey’s 81 provinces attended. After the meeting, the police chiefs returned to their provinces, but Police Chief Hasan Gungor decided to stay another day in Afyonkarahisar, where he is from and where his parents live.

On the morning of Dec. 15, Gungor left Afyonkarahisar for the western province of Denizli to pick up his wife. The following morning he learned his brother Recep, who lived in İstanbul, had died. Devastated by the news, Gungor contacted the counterterrorism unit and the social services section of the İstanbul Police Department and informed them of his brother’s death.

Gungor’s brother’s death was announced in the Police Information System (Pol-Net), prompting dozens of Gungor’s colleagues from various provinces to call him and offer their condolences and learn the time and the venue of the funeral.

Gungor then travelled to Afyonkarahisar with his wife for the funeral.

Two vehicles were arranged with the approval of Deputy National Police Chief İsmail Bas to go to Afyonkarahisar. These vehicles, carrying Gungor’s colleagues, set out for the western province at 6 a.m. on Dec. 17. None of the police officers was given an allowance for working outside their normal duty station.

After Gungor’s colleagues arrived from Ankara and other provinces, they travelled to the village of Ovacık where Gungor’s brother was to be buried. During the time the police officers spent in Ovacık, they could not be contacted on their mobile phones as they didn’t work in the village. Only after the police officers left the village at 3 a.m. did their mobile phones become active again.

Gungor’s brother’s funeral took place on the day when a corruption and bribery probe that implicated senior members of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) went public.

The AK Party government and then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the investigation as a coup attempt against his government, despite the existence of substantial evidence indicating corruption.

The police chiefs and police officers who took part in the corruption probe were immediately replaced, while some of them were suspended and even sent to jail.

The police teams that replaced the officers taking part in the corruption probe decided to examine Gungor’s brother’s funeral. Inspectors examined phone conversations Gungor had between Dec. 15 and 17 and found he received phone calls from 60 provinces.

They also discovered Gungor travelled among three provinces between Dec. 15 and 17. Inspectors saw that telephone traffic between Gungor and his colleagues stopped between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Dec.17, reaching the conclusion they must have had some secret meetings in relation to the probe.

Inspectors also claimed that the police officers, along with Gungor, plotted to detain Erdogan because he was in the nearby province of Konya at the time to attend commemoration ceremonies for Rumi.

The inspectors’ report was then sent to the Interior Ministry, from which it was sent to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The office then indicted Gungor and 12 of his colleagues on charges of plotting to stage a coup against the government.

The highly publicized Dec. 17 graft investigation implicated the sons of several ministers, pro-government businessmen and the head of state-run Halkbank. At the heart of the probe was Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who was involved in a money-laundering scheme as part of a strategy to evade US-led sanctions on Iran.

On Dec. 17 many graft suspects were detained, including the sons of three ministers. Some of the suspects, including two of the ministers’ sons, Zarrab and former Halkbank General Manager Suleyman Aslan, were arrested several days later. The suspects were released after the prosecutors were replaced.

The suspects’ alleged crimes, according to the prosecutors, included: “The transfer of land with a value of billions of dollars at very low prices; the seizure of mines from businessmen; tender-rigging; illegally giving state tenders worth billions of dollars to businessmen; changing the status of protected areas through bribery; opening these [areas] for construction and making large profits off of them.”

Since the investigations were made public in December, Erdogan has sought to discredit the prosecutors and police officers behind the investigations by accusing them of working to oust the AK Party from power. Those prosecutors and police officers, along with tens of thousands of others, have been reassigned.