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AK Party crimes against humanity taken to ICC

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AK Party crimes against humanity taken to ICC

The murder of 34 Kurdish civilians in 2011 by a Turkish fighter jet, the treatment of protesters who took part in anti-government protests last year and a relentless war being waged by Turkish authorities on Turkey's faith-based Hizmet movement have been taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Kani Kudu, a Turkish businessman, has petitioned the ICC through his lawyer İsmail Yanar, arguing that Turkey's increasingly authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister of the country for the past 12 years until his recent ascent to presidency in August, and other members of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, have committed genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges relate to their treatment of Turkey's Kurds residing in the southeastern town of Uludere, in Şırnak province, the participants in massive anti-government protests last year across Turkey and the members of the Hizmet movement. Others accused of contributing to the alleged crimes against humanity include the heads of various state agencies, such as the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) and the editors-in-chief of Turkey's government-controlled or pro-government newspapers.

The petition described at length the plight of the families of the 34 Kurdish civilians who were killed in an air strike staged by the Turkish Air Forces (THK) in December 2011. Officials said the air strike had been a mistake caused by false intelligence suggesting that those attacked were terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members. They turned out to be smugglers trading across the northern Iraqi border. Those responsible were never brought to justice. Kudu argued that Erdoğan should be tried for war crimes by the ICC for his role in the deaths of the Kurdish civilians.

The businessman also said Erdoğan and former Minister of Internal Affairs Muammer Güler should be tried for crimes against humanity over their role in the suppression of the Gezi Park events of 2013, where six civilians and two security officials -- Mehmet Ayvalıtaş, Abdullah Cömert, Ethem Sarısülük, Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Mustafa Sarı, Ahmet Küçüktağ, Ahmet Atakan and Berkin Elvan -- died. The petition quoted Erdoğan as referring to the protesters as "rapists, vandals, barbarians, feeble-minded and traitors."

The discriminatory practices of the AK Party government against the Hizmet movement, which became particularly harsh after a corruption investigation into the government and its allies in the business world became public in late December 2013, were also included in the petition.

Last year, a major corruption investigation implicating Erdoğan's inner circle and himself became public. Erdoğan responded to the corruption claims by accusing Hizmet, a civil society movement inspired by the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who currently resides in Pennsylvania, of plotting against his increasingly authoritarian rule, and has purged thousands in the police force and hundreds in the judiciary that the intelligence units who respond to him believe to be affiliated with Hizmet.

The government has persistently targeted the Hizmet movement, shutting down its schools and using hate speech against its members, not dissimilar to the case of the Gezi protesters. The petitioner noted that the government has been using an extensive spying mechanism to crack down on the group, which operates schools, cultural centers and financial institutions. The members of the movement -- which the Turkish government calls the "parallel state" -- have been victims of online and offline harassment, persecution, discrimination and hate speech, with the new prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, making it clear that he will do whatever it takes to eradicate the group.

The petition included government discrimination against Hizmet-affiliated schools, which were excluded from incentives given to all private schools in Turkey as part of recent legislative changes. It also spoke about the government's attempts to bankrupt Bank Asya, an Islamic lender affiliated with Hizmet. It went on to give details on the wider hate campaign being conducted by the government and the newspapers that support it. It recalled that Erdoğan had called on AK Party mayors to deny services to Hİzmet-affiliated groups and individuals whenever and wherever possible. "Don't even give them water," he had said. The petition also noted that Erdoğan, in an attempt to turn society against and demonize Hizmet, has referred to it and its followers using the following words at different times: "terror organization, liars, primary-school graduate [of Fethullah Gülen], pawns, bloodsuckers, perverts, coup plotters, parallel religion founders..." and other pejoratives.

The petition argued that the AK Party government and the accused have violated the Rome Statute of the ICC, which defines war crimes, and Article 6 of the Rome Statute on genocide crimes defined in Article 2 of the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of Crime of Genocide of 1948. The government's persistent attempts to eradicate the members of certain groups match the criteria for crimes according to the above articles, it argued in the 24 page-long indictment. Finally, the petitioner argued that the acts of the government and others who stand accused also match the definitions for crimes against humanity as described in the Rome Statute.

It presented various UN resolutions, media reports on the government's alleged acts and witness testimony as evidence.