Turkey urges action against German-based Gulen groups
Turkey has intensified its diplomatic efforts to persuade Germany to curb the activities of domestic Gulenist institutions in the wake of the July 15 foiled coup.
Ufuk Gezer, the senior Turkish diplomat in Berlin, has said Turkey expects Germany to take necessary steps against the group, after it became clear that the U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen's followers and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) were behind the coup attempt.
"FETO clearly poses risk to the democratic system,” he told Anadolu Agency, adding that the group is outlawed and designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara.
"In Germany, FETO often acts under the guise of cultural or educational institutions. We are in contact with our German counterparts and discussing this issue,” he said.
"We expect them to be sensitive to this matter, to put covert activities of these institutions under closer surveillance and also examine their unregistered funding activities,” he added.
Gezer also said that Turkey expects Germany to extradite suspects that Turkish courts issued arrest warrants for in ongoing cases on FETO.
"We are conveying our extradition requests through diplomatic channels,” he said.
Late last year Ankara requested the extradition of two Gulenist former prosecutors, Zekeriya Oz and Celal Kara, amid media reports claiming that they had fled to Germany, following a failed plot to overthrow the government through a politically motivated corruption investigation.
German authorities responded that they had no information supporting claims that the two suspects were in the country.
Several suspects arrested after the July 15 coup attempt reportedly testified that hundreds of high-ranking FETO members have recently fled to Germany.
Germany is among the countries where Gulenists carry out significant activities through dozens of private schools, business associations, and media organizations.
Since the 1990s, Gulenists have founded more than 500 organizations across the country, including at least 24 schools and many cultural foundations, according to a 2014 report by the domestic intelligence agency of the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
The 60-page report warned of possible hidden religious agendas pursued by Gulenists and criticized lack of transparency in its organizations. The report also stressed that several experts suspect the group is using schools to indoctrinate children and raise devout Muslim elites as a tool to build a new society.
Despite widespread suspicions, German authorities had been reluctant so far to curb activities of Gulenists, and underlined that they would only act if they get concrete evidence suggesting that these institutions are carrying out activities that violate the constitution and laws of Germany.
Gulenists had been careful so far not to attract criticism in the German public and have particularly focused on interfaith dialogue programs, giving moderate messages to win the trust of the media, influential churches, and political institutions.
The Turkish government suspects that Gulenists recently came closer to fully controlling the Turkish state by infiltrating key institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, in a long-running campaign dating back to the 1980s.
Several politicians said the deadly July 15 coup attempt was hastily organized by followers of U.S.-based preacher Gulen in the military, after they received hints that an ongoing legal inquiry into Gulenists in the army would lead to massive detentions on July 16-17.
The coup attempt was foiled when tens of thousands of people took to the streets to defend the government. The events resulted in at least 237 deaths, and more than 2,000 injuries.
Approximately 13,000 members of the military, police, and judiciary as well as civil servants have been detained since the failed putsch, and tens of thousands more removed from their posts.
Last Modified: 2016-07-31 07:48:49
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