In Turkey / Türkiye

By The Associated Press, Aug. 13, 2016

ISTANBUL — Turkish authorities have prepared an official request for the temporary arrest of United States-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen over his alleged involvement in the coup attempt on July 15, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said Saturday.

Images of Fethullah Gulen and Tayyip Erdogan displayed in a shop in Turkey in 2014 (Ozan Kose, AFP-Getty Images)

Images of Fethullah Gulen and Tayyip Erdogan displayed in a shop in Turkey in 2014 (Ozan Kose, AFP-Getty Images)

The request by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office claims it has determined the coup was staged upon orders by Gulen and requests that he be arrested prior to the submission of a formal extradition request.

The request has been submitted to Turkey’s Justice Ministry for it to be relayed to U.S. authorities, Anadolu said.

Ankara claims Gulen movement is responsible for the failed putsch which has left more than 270 people dead and has branded it a terrorist organization. It has demanded that its leader, who runs a network of worldwide charities and schools from self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, be returned to Turkey to face trial.

Washington has said it would need evidence of the cleric’s involvement, and says the regular extradition process must be allowed to take its course. Gulen has denied involvement in the violent coup attempt.

On Friday, Turkey’s foreign and justice ministers announced that a four-person delegation from the U.S. Justice Department will be arriving on Aug. 22 and meet with their Turkish counterparts on the following two days to discuss the extradition request. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced on Saturday that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden would be visiting Turkey during that time, Anadolu said.

In Washington, The White House confirmed that Biden will travel to Turkey on Aug. 24. Biden typically meets with the premier of a foreign country when he visits. He has been one of the Obama administration’s key interlocutors with Turkey’s government, speaking frequently with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has launched a massive crackdown on alleged supporters of the Gulen movement, raising concerns among European governments and human rights groups. More than 35,000 people have been detained for questioning while tens of thousands of others have been dismissed from government jobs, including in the judiciary, media, education, healthcare, military and local government.


A Canadian lawyer is counsel to Turkey in offensive against Gulen

By Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail, Aug. 12, 2016

Robert Amsterdam looks like he has just returned from an expensive safari. His outfit of boat shoes, cotton shirt and pink shorts indicates a man at leisure. So do his gold watch and fashionable stubble.

But the Canadian lawyer seems anxious. His eyes dart around the lobby of his Toronto hotel; he has agreed to speak with The Globe only on the condition that the location of our meeting not be published.

Raised in Ottawa, Mr. Amsterdam has built a global career working as a legal gun-for-hire and public-relations svengali for such exotic clients as the persecuted Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the former Zambian head of state Rupiah Banda.

His latest gig is counsel to the Turkish government. Mr. Amsterdam is part of the country’s continuing diplomatic blitz to convince Western governments that Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric allegedly behind Turkey’s failed coup last month, is a terrorist and cult leader who should be thwarted wherever he operates, including in Canada.

Since the July 15 coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan has presided over a vast purge of the justice system, military, academy and press, with some 80,000 people being detained or suspended from their jobs. Mr. Amsterdam’s goal, and that of several Turkish delegations spread across the globe this week, is to depict the crackdown as a fair and proportionate response to the Gulenist onslaught.

The mild-mannered cleric, until recently a political ally of the Turkish president, is a “vicious anti-Semite” and leader of a “secretive cult stealing money left and right,” Mr. Amsterdam charged.

That may seem a rash way to describe a man best known for his network of charter schools, the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and a social movement known as Hizmet, or service.

But it is soft soap compared to the rhetoric being used by Turkish officials speaking to the foreign press this week, who have compared the Gulenists to ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Ever since a falling out between the leaders in 2013, Mr. Erdogan has been trying to brand his rival as a sinister Islamist bent on building a “state within a state” and seizing control of the country. As recently as May, the Turkish government officially labelled the Gulen movement a terrorist group. Since the abortive coup, the government has painted its crackdown as an effort to root out dangerous Gulen loyalists, rather than mere political opponents.

Many Turkish liberals really do believe that Gulen supporters have penetrated state institutions on a massive scale, with the goal of imposing some kind of Islamist regime, said Kemal Kirisci, director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution. The failure of Western leaders to take the scenario seriously is a source of frustration in Turkey, and a major reason for the current international PR campaign.

“There is a 70-year relationship, and still a failure to understand Turkey at this time,” Mr. Kirisci said.

Sitting on a crushed-velvet sofa in the hotel lobby, Mr. Amsterdam described a decades-long process of Gulenist infiltration in Turkish society, beginning with the recruitment of promising schoolchildren and extending to rigged military exams.

It’s like stories about the nefarious power of “the Illuminati or the Masons,” Mr. Amsterdam said – only true.

To hear the Canadian lawyer tell it, Mr. Gulen’s influence extends even to the United States. He lives at a compound in rural Pennsylvania and his network operates more than 100 American charter schools, which Mr. Amsterdam says are rife with fraud, and protected by sympathetic U.S. politicians.

Related readings:
Is Gulen an Armenian?, by Pinar Tremblay, Al-Monitor, August 12, 2016

Pro-government figures in Turkey have declared Fethullah Gulen to be Armenian and Jewish in an attempt to deny the Islamic background of the person it blames for the recent coup attempt.

43 journalists arrested, 100 served with detention warrants after Turkey’s coup attempt, Hurriyet Daily News, Aug 13, 2016

Erdogan’s drive to create a death penalty in Turkey, Hurriyet Daily News, Aug 13, 2016

The Gulen movement is not a cult — it’s one of the most encouraging faces of Islam today, by Graham E. Fuller, Huffington Post, July 22, 2016

Graham E. Fuller is a former vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council and the author of ‘Breaking Faith’.

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