Turkish justice minister under fire from “Pelican” clique - MP

Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül has been attacked by a clique within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) known as the Pelicanists, Ahmet Şık, a journalist and member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said on Twitter.

Many AKP-affiliated Twitter accounts used the hashtag #AbdulhamitiYedirmeyiz (We will not allow Abdülhamit be eaten) to show their support for Gül, after a columnist in the pro-government Sabah newspaper on Wednesday accused the minister of allowing the Gülen movement, a religious group blamed for a coup attempt in 2016, to re-infiltrate the judiciary.  

Şık said some groups wanted Gül removed in a rumoured upcoming cabinet reshuffle. The minister’s supporters pointed to what they said was a plot. Şık said that though Gül’s supporters did not say who was behind the campaign, what they meant was a group known as the Pelicanists.

The clique got its name after a document was leaked listing points of contention between Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The leak led to Davutoğlu’s resignation in 2016. The document was called “the Pelican file”, a reference to a John Grisham political thriller.

The group is said to be linked to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, and is believed to operate through Sabah to attack senior figures inside the ruling party.

Dilek Güngör, a Sabah columnist, said on Wednesday that strange things had been going on in the judiciary related to the Gülen movement. The followers of reclusive U.S.-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, formerly allied to the ruling party, infiltrated the police, armed forces, judiciary and media in what Erdoğan called a parallel state trying to seize power from within.

The Gülenists and AKP finally fell out in 2013 and, facing a purge of its followers within the military, analysts say the secretive movement launched a coup in July 2016 in an abortive attempt to overthrow Erdoğan. Since the failed putsch, some 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and about 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs in a widespread crackdown that has taken in government opponents of all shades.

The judiciary was one of the main targets of the government’s crackdown. But Güngör said some people linked to the Gülen movement had been released by the courts, some had not been effectively prosecuted and others had been reappointed to their jobs, despite evidence.

Güngör said that if prosecutors were to launch corruption investigations into ministers, as they did in 2013 in a move that precipitated the split between the Gülenists and the AKP, people would point the finger at Gül for not having removed members of the group the government calls the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation, or FETÖ. 

Gül is heading preparations for judiciary reform, which is at the centre of efforts to revitalise Turkey’s relations with the European Union. The minister hit back in a speech on Wednesday, implying that those attacking him could be Gülenists themselves.

“Nobody should assume that this organisation only infiltrated the judiciary, the military and the police. Wherever there is an immoral attack on someone, you should know that there is a manifestation of FETÖ,” he said. The minister warned those who were once on good terms with the Gülen movement to stop lecturing on the struggle against FETÖ and stop attacking the judiciary. 

Şık said the fight between Gül and the Pelicanists could escalate. 

Şık was imprisoned for a year between 2011 and 2012 for writing a book on the Gülen movement infiltrating the state and then, once the group had fallen out of official favour, jailed again in December 2016 on charges of making propaganda for the sect. He was freed on bail in March last year.