Erdoğan’s aide: Germany backs Gülen movement, Trump administration works on Gülen’s extradition

İbrahim Kalın, an aide of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has claimed on Sunday that Germany supports the Gülen movement against Turkey while he has also claimed Trump administration works on Turkey’s request for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen.

In reaction to a statements of head of German federal intelligence agency (BND) that Germany was not convinced of Fethullah Gülen’s alleged role in the failed coup attempt of July 15, Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın claimed that Germany supports the Gülen movement against Turkey.

On Saturday, the head of the BND, Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that Turkish Muslim scholar Gülen was behind a failed coup attempt despite accusations against the Gülen movement.

Kalın, in an interview with CNNTürk on Sunday, blamed Germany for supporting the Gülen movement which he calls ‘FETÖ,’ a derogatory term to designate the peaceful movement a terrorist organization.

Gülen movement which is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and President Erdoğan on corruption as well as the government’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Middle East. Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.

President Erdoğan vowed to pursue members of Gülen movement abroad no matter where they are, shut down all institutions affiliated with the movement and jailed over 47,000 people following coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Erdoğan labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.

Erdoğan has also blamed the failed coup bid last year to Gülen but failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric to the attempt. Gülen himself strongly denied any involvement. Many believe Erdoğan staged the failed coup himself to set up his critics for a mass persecution and as a pretext to transform secular parliamentary democracy to political Islamist autocracy.

As far as BND head’s remarks are concerned, ¨it is noteworthy to show who backs FETÖ¨ Erdoğan’s spokesman said.

“When did you hear the head of BND make a statement on such a specific issue?” asked Kalın in a critical tone of Germany intelligence revelation. He claimed that German statement is an operation to “whitewash” the Gülen movement in Europe. Erdoğan’s spokesman also argued that Germany will back Gülen movement just as it backs the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In remarks that was published in Der Spiegel yesterday, in addition to saying Gülen was not behind coup, Kahl also ruled out arguments that the government staged July 15. “The coup was not initiated by the state. There was an ongoing purge even before July 15. As a result, some within the military thought that they should intervene before the purge reaches them. However, it was too late, and they were purged during this process, too.”

According to Kahl, the failed coup attempt served as a pretext to accelerate the purge. BND head said that what is being witnessed in the post-coup era was going to happen anyway, though maybe not with the same depth and same radical steps, in reference to an unprecedented crackdown of critics in Turkey.

Kalın, however, said live on TV that German considers using the Gülen movement as a ¨convenient tool¨ against Turkey. He further criticized the leak of a European intelligence report in January that also ruled out Gülen as the mastermind of the coup.

A report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that although Erdoğan and the Turkish government immediately put the blame for the July 15 failed coup on the faith-based Gülen movement, the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge, according to a report by The Times newspaper.

Kalın has also claimed on the same TV show that Trump administration works on Turkey’s request for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen. “Obama did not even lift a finger on this issue, but Trump listened the case seriously. As far as we can see, Trump administration is working on it,” Kalın said on CNNTürk.

The Turkish government accuses Gülen of masterminding the failed coup attempt of July 15 although the US officials several times stated that they have not received any credible evidence from Turkey on these allegations.

Last week, a retroactive Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing with the US Department of Justice by attorneys for ousted Trump national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has revealed that Flynn’s consulting company was hired by a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish national with close ties to Turkey’s government and president for the purpose of researching Gülen and the charter schools in the United States associated with him.

Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, while once close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in Turkey, had a falling out with them after a corruption scandal implicating top government officials and the president’s family in 2013. The Turkish government has for some time been seeking Gülen’s extradition from the United States.

According to the filing, which replaces a previous registration with the US Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act in September, Flynn Intel Group was retained by private firm Inovo BV for what it understood was to be work “focused on improving US business organizations’ confidence regarding doing business in Turkey, particularly with respect to the stability of Turkey and its suitability as a venue for investment and commercial activity.”

The FARA filing was made retroactively when Flynn Intel Group realized that although it “was engaged by a private firm, Inovo BV, and not by a foreign government, because of the subject matter of the engagement, Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.”

Inovo BV, registered in the Netherlands, is owned by Turkish national Ekim Alptekin, an ally of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and also chairman of the Turkish American Business Council (DEIK/TAIK), a non-profit arm of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board. Alptekin helped coordinate a visit to the US by Erdoğan last year.

The filing, however, indicates that “[t]he research, which was conducted by independent contractors retained for this purpose, focused on Mr. Fethullah [Gulen] and charter schools in the United States that are associated with, or allegedly associated with, Mr. Gulen. The results of Flynn Intel Group’s research were provided to Inovo, and to S.G.R. LLC Government Relations and Lobbying, the public relations firm engaged by Flynn Intel Group. Flynn Intel Group and the public relations firm developed various materials and documents related to this research for potential dissemination.”

In early September 2016, Flynn Intel Group was invited by Alptekin to meet with government officials from Turkey “for the purpose of understanding better the political climate in Turkey at the time, as background for the project. Officials of the Republic of Turkey attending this meeting on September 19, 2016, in New York, were the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Energy, to the best of Flynn Intel Group’s current understanding,” according to the FARA filing.

The energy minister of Turkey is and was at the time of the meeting Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Erdoğan. Albayrak was the subject of an email hack last year that exposed embarrassing dealings on his part and that of the Erdoğan family, including conspiring to affect US congressional elections by proposing a strategy for pro-Turkish-government lobbyists in the US to target members of the US Congress who were taken on trips to Turkey by US-based sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

Erdoğan is under intense scrutiny in the West for his increasingly authoritarian style of governance and a widespread purge of suspected or alleged Gülen followers from state institutions in which more than 130,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs.

Although, according to the filing, the project with Inovo was terminated early and the full scope of the contract was not performed, the results of Flynn Intel Group’s research on Gülen were given to Inovo and PR firm S.G.R., which created a Gülen-themed monopoly graphic at the direction of Flynn Intel Group titled “The Mula Mullah – Gulenopoly.” To the best of its knowledge, according to the filing, the document and associated research was not disseminated other than to Inovo. However, a reproduction of the graphic appeared on social media, with a tweet that “[SGR] never used it, but another lobbying firm did…”

The FARA filing also refers to an op-ed written by Flynn that appeared in The Hill publication on Nov. 8, 2016, just hours before Trump was declared president-elect, in which he repeatedly praised Erdoğan and called on the next president of the US to extradite US-based Turkish scholar Gülen to Turkey.

The op-ed was developed “based, in part, on the research conducted by Flynn Intel Group under the Inovo engagement. The op-ed was not written or published at the request of, or under the direction of control of, Inovo, the Republic of Turkey or any other party. No compensation was received for the publication of the op-ed. … Nonetheless, the op-ed addresses subject matter related to the research that Flynn Intel Group conducted for Inovo, and a draft of the op-ed was shared with Inovo in advance of publication,” according to the filing.

Flynn Intel Group received a total of $530,000 from Inovo BV from Sept. 9, 2016 to Nov. 14, 2016 for work performed under the contract. (SCF with March 19, 2017

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