Former intel official says Turkish intel agency abducts critics from Africa, Central Asia by paying bribes

Associate Professor Ali Burak Darıcılı, an intelligence expert and former official at Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), has said the organization has forcibly returned to Turkey individuals linked to the Gülen movement from some African and Central Asian countries by bribing local officials, Turkish Minute reported.

Darıcılı, who left MİT in 2014 and is currently an academic at Bursa Technical University, on Monday spoke to journalists Burcu Uğur and Şaban Sevinç during an online program on the Bizim TV YouTube channel.

During the program Darıcılı was asked how MİT had been able to forcibly return Gülen movement members in some African and Central Asian countries but had failed to do the same in European countries or the United States.

The ex-intelligence official explained that locals were being bribed to help them as collaborators in such “failed states” as those in Africa and Central Asia while carrying out the abduction of Gülenists.

Darıcılı added that it’s not possible to do the same in countries with strong governments, such as Germany, since “if you’re exposed performing such a covert activity, you’ll have a big problem under international law” because it amounts to interfering with the internal affairs of the relevant country.

When Sevinç claimed he could also abduct people from those countries using bribery and that one didn’t need to be an intelligence official to do that, Darıcılı said: “Don’t underestimate it [MİT because] knowing whom to bribe is also important.”

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch.

A report by Freedom House on global transnational repression in 2021 revealed the intensity, geographic reach and suddenness of the Turkish government’s campaign targeting dissidents — primarily people affiliated with the movement — abroad, noting that Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions from host states since 2014.

The report also indicated that the Turkish government has pursued its perceived enemies in at least 30 host countries spread across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia since the 2016 coup attempt.

According to official statements by its interior ministry, Turkey has sent 800 extradition requests to 105 countries since the failed coup, and more than 110 alleged members of the movement have been brought back to Turkey as part of the government’s global campaign.

Turkey’s has mostly relied on renditions, in which the government and MİT persuade the targeted states to hand over individuals without due process. In some countries Erdoğan critics were abducted and forcibly returned to Turkey by MİT with the help of locals.

During the year the Turkish government did not hesitate to refer to extrajudicial and illegal methods as part of its propaganda, with Erdoğan mentioning the forcible return of Turkish nationals in his speeches as part of the country’s counterterrorism success.

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