TURKEY

Sex tape scandal reveals FETÖ plot to change political landscape

SEX TAPE SCANDAL REVEALS FETÖ PLOT TO CHANGE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

An indictment of FETÖ-linked suspects accused of secretly recording the sexual affairs of politicians revealed that the terrorist group went to great lengths to defame their victims and hatched the plan at least two years before the sex tapes surfaced

The unabridged indictment on the infamous sex tape scandal that derailed the careers of several veteran politicians reveals how police associated with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) worked to change Turkey's political landscape for the group's interests. Deniz Baykal, chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) at the time and high-ranking officials from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were forced to resign when the sex tapes were leaked by figures linked to FETÖ.

The indictment claims FETÖ conceived the plot against Baykal in 2008, two years before the sex tape showing his affair with Nesrin Baytok, his former secretary who also served as a CHP lawmaker, was leaked online.

The suspects broke into Baytok's house five times to plant bugs and hidden cameras, according to the indictment. They used a locksmith to enter, leaving no trace of forced entry, so as not to be detected.

FETÖ, led by U.S.-based retired imam Fetullah Gülen, is known for plots to imprison its critics. Due to its infiltrators in law enforcement, the judiciary, bureaucracy and the military, it enjoyed widespread clout both in Turkey and abroad. In 2013, it tried to seize power by implicating people close to the government in a criminal probe and last year launched a bid to topple the government through its members in the military.

Baykal, a veteran politician who intermittently chaired the CHP from 1992 to 2010, was forced to step down from a post for the first time in his political career that started in 1968. He was replaced by current CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who is often accused by his opponents of siding with FETÖ.

The indictment by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office claims the suspects, who were officers in the Turkish National Police's intelligence department, first planted bugs and video recorders in Baytok's house where she met Baykal in August 2008. They planted more devices in the house later, according to prosecutors. Once they captured the sexual affair on tape, they gave the tapes to journalist Cevheri Güven, another suspect in the indictment. The footage was later sent to suspect Yener Dönmez, who was working at an online news portal at the time. The footage surfaced online in 2010. The suspects are also accused of planting bugs in residences and offices of several other people, including a businessman and two former high-ranking politicians, allegedly for blackmail. More significantly, they planted cameras in a house where senior MHP executives were recorded having extramarital affairs, and the leaked footage shook up the cadres of the MHP when victims resigned after the sex tapes were leaked online.

Fatih A., a former police officer among the suspects, confessed to investigators that they tapped Baykal and former MHP executives' phones. He said their superior, Ali Ağıllı, warned them to never talk to anyone about the secret wiretapping, and Salih Keskinkılıç, another police chief, urged them to notify him if Baykal and the others they had wiretapped and followed "were to meet a woman." He said they continued tapping Baykal and others up until the assignment of a new police intelligence director who replaced Ramazan Akyürek, another suspect. Akyürek, who is currently jailed for suspected links to FETÖ, is also implicated in other cases related to the terrorist group, including a plot to cover up the murder of prominent Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. A letter sent to Gülen by followers, included in the indictment, says Akyürek gave "himmet," or "donation," to the terrorist group even while he was in prison and never complained about his imprisonment for links to FETÖ.

Gürsel Gündüz, another suspect in the case, confessed to prosecutors that he and other police officers planted a hidden camera in the house of a woman who worked for a nonprofit organization. The woman was an acquaintance of former Gen. Hurşit Tolon, who was imprisoned in what is believed to be a sham trial against top military brass by FETÖ's judiciary and police infiltrators.

A total of 171 defendants in the case are charged with establishing and running a terrorist group, violation of privacy and several other crimes. Suspects planted video cameras and sound recorders in 12 locations in the homes and offices of the politicians on the sex tapes, using the recorded footage to supposedly serve FETÖ's purposes. A total of 164 suspects were formerly employed in police intelligence and 151 are suspected FETÖ members. Prosecutors say that ByLock, an encrypted messaging app used by the terrorist group, was detected on the phones of 118 suspects.

The indictment now awaits the court's approval. Suspected FETÖ members already face a barrage of trials, especially in the aftermath of last year's July 15 coup attempt that killed 249 people. FETÖ members in the military are accused of carrying out the coup attempt that was allegedly masterminded by Gülen and his point men who oversaw the group's members in the military.

An investigation into who released the sex tapes was launched, but details had not resulted in an indictment for years. The media has blamed investigators for the lack of progress in the case as FETÖ members working on the case obstructed the investigation. Thousands of suspected FETÖ members have been dismissed from their duties, detained or arrested since the July 15 coup attempt. The indictment also includes four suspects, all former members of law enforcement, who were also implicated in the infamous bugging case, including Sedat Zavar, İlker Usta, Enes Çığcı and Ali Özdoğan, all accused of planting bugs in the residence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his tenure as prime minister.

Prosecutors say 46 suspects have been arrested so far, and 44 suspects remain at large. Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, is among the fugitives. He is the chief suspect in every FETÖ-related case. Another noteworthy defendant is Osman Hilmi Özdil, a suspected point man who commanded the members in law enforcement and is believed to be on the run in Thailand. İbrahim Faruk Bayındır, a fugitive aviation tycoon accused of financing an online campaign against MHP executives, including the release of the sex tapes, is another suspect in the case. Bayındır is believed to be in the U.S., having fled after the investigation into him was launched.

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