Nearly 100 suspected members of the terrorist group were detained on Jan. 18 as police raided several locations in seven big cities, including İstanbul, İzmir and Ankara. Fifty-five of them, including nine lawyers, were arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. The lawyers are affiliated with the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD).
Initial police reports suggest that documents detailing plans by the DHKP/C to stage attacks against the police and military and to assassinate certain politicians, judges and prosecutors were seized from the suspects’ homes.
Retired public prosecutor Reşat Petek said the police have not yet provided detailed information on the factors that lead to or objectives of the operation against the terrorist group and that the issue will become clearer once the police offer a comprehensive explanation for the operation. “Initial information, however, suggests that the police obtained tips that the group [DHKP/C] was plotting to stage attacks and assassinate some figures prominent in society. The police most probably wanted to foil those planned attacks and assassinations. In this way, the police have secured peace and security in the country,” Petek told Sunday’s Zaman.
According to Petek, people usually complain when the country suffers an act of violence or terror that the police do not take the necessary steps to prevent such acts. “This was the case when [Turkish-Armenian journalist] Hrant Dink was assassinated. People asked what the police and intelligence officers were doing instead of preventing the murder of the journalist. The DHKP/C has staged attacks in the recent past. The police most probably launched the operation to prevent future attacks,” the retired prosecutor stated, adding, “It is important to capture the assailants after an attack is staged, but what is more important is preventing an attack before it happens.”
Three police officers were killed and two wounded in consecutive armed attacks, the first of which was staged in June of last year. The DHKP/C later claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were an act of retaliation against the suppressive policies of the police exercised against the group and that the group would continue to stage attacks.
Turkish newspapers reported last week that some DHKP/C suspects had attempted to burn documents immediately prior to the police raids. The suspects had dumped documents into a stove at one of the residences and were about to burn them when the police entered. The documents are reportedly on the terrorist group’s plans to attack police stations, embassies, judges and prosecutors.
Gültekin Avcı, also a retired public prosecutor, said that there are “dangerous organizations” belonging to the Turkish left that have flourished along with democracy in recent years. “Not just legal organizations but illegal ones as well have flourished along with democracy. Democracies that do not possess efficient, sensitive radar [to detect and do away with illegal groups] inevitably end up dealing with anarchy. Any freedom gives birth to acts of terror in democracies whose radar for the detection of illegal acts does not work. Simultaneous police operations against the DHKP/C have shown that we should not forget about the Turkish left,” wrote Avcı in his columns for the Bugün daily last week.
According to Avcı, the police operation against the DHKP/C not only aimed to prevent future terrorist attacks in the country but also to cleanse the Turkish left of terrorist organizations.
He also lashed out at those critical of the arrest of lawyers as part of the operation against the terrorist group. Critics, including deputies from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), have said the police targeted those lawyers because of their opposition to the government.
“Some circles were disturbed by the detention [and later arrest] of lawyers during the operation. However, there are terrorist lawyers in Turkey. I learned about those terrorist lawyers in 2001, when I was a young prosecutor, and I wondered why operations were not launched against those lawyers,” Avcı stated. However, he went on to explain that there is the perception in Turkey that lawyers and other men of justice cannot work for illegal or criminal organizations and that those who make such claims are “imperialists, fascists and biased.”
During the dawn operation, police entered the ÇHD office in Ankara through windows. The raids followed a secret investigation into the DHKP/C launched about nine months ago.
In an earlier raid, police officers had been unable to enter the office due to several steel doors at the entrance. When police did manage to enter the office, they discovered that ÇHD members had already destroyed many documents that could have potentially served as proof of the association’s links to the DHKP/C.
ÇHD President Selçuk Kozağaçlı was among the nine lawyers arrested last week on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. The lawyers were reportedly key to the defense in a number of cases, including a case about the Hayata Dönüş (Back to Life) operation carried out by gendarmerie in 2000, which left 12 inmates dead and 29 others seriously injured at İstanbul’s Bayrampaşa Prison in 2000; the case of Engin Çeber, who was tortured to death while in custody in 2008; and that of Festus Okey, a Nigerian man who was shot to death by a police officer.
Claims have surfaced that the lawyers supported prisoners who staged a massive hunger strike in their prison cells last year in support of broader rights for Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).