EU’s counter-terrorism chief: EU does not deem Gülen movement as ‘terror organisation’

The European Union does not share Turkish government’s view that the Gülen movement, which has been inspired by the teachings of the US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, is a “terrorist organization” and would need to see “substantive” evidence to change its stance, the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator said.

According to a report by Reuters, the comments by Gilles de Kerchove are likely to infuriate Ankara, which accuses Gülen movement of masterminding a controversial military coup on July 15, 2016, in which more than 250 people were killed. Fethullah Gülen and the movement have denied the charge and condemned the coup.

Turkey has long accused its NATO allies, including the United States and Germany, of failing to condemn the abortive putsch strongly enough, saying they appeared more concerned by Ankara’s ensuing crackdown on suspected supporters of the coup.

 “As for FETO, we don’t see it as a terrorist organization, and I don’t believe the EU is likely to change its position soon,” Kerchove said, using the Turkish government’s acronym for Gülen’s network. “FETÖ,” a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.
“You need not only circumstantial evidence – like just downloading an app – but concrete substantive data which shows that they were involved…,” he told Reuters in an interview cleared for publication on Thursday.

Human rights groups and some EU officials accuse Erdoğan of using the crackdown to muzzle dissent in Turkey, a charge Ankara denies. It claims the scale of the clampdown is justified because the Gülen movement threatens national security.

Germany’s BND intelligence agency has said it is not convinced that Gülen was behind the failed coup, in which rogue soldiers used tanks and helicopters to attack Turkey’s parliament and other key targets.

Turkish government has also sought, so far unsuccessfully, Gülen’s extradition from the United States, where the cleric has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999. US officials say their courts require sufficient evidence to order his extradition.

As of July, Turkey had supplied 84 boxes of documents to the United States for alleged evidence, Turkish envoy to Washington has said, although he has acknowledged that more concrete evidence of Gülen’s direct involvement has remained elusive.

Germany, which has sharply criticized the mass arrests in Turkey, has refused to extradite people Ankara says were involved in the plot or linked to the Gülen movement.

“The decision on extradition is in the hands of all member states, and most of the time the judiciary, the independent judiciary, and they need hard evidence,” Kerchove said.

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