Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said during a press conference on Friday that the Turkish government would continue its global manhunt for followers of the Gülen movement, stating that the operation could extend to the United States as well.
Kalin said “relevant units” would continue their operations against FETO just like the one in Kosovo, whether it be the in the US or any other country. “FETO” is an abbreviation for the Gülen movement coined by the Turkish government to label the movement, which it accuses of masterminding an abortive coup in 2016, as a terrorist organization.
What follows is a transcript of a media member’s question for Kalın and his response.
Q: “You said foreign operations would continue. The National Intelligence Organization has been apprehending FETO members and bringing them to Turkey. President Erdoğan will go to the US on Monday, and he will exchange views regarding the extradition of FETO leader Gülen. Can we expect any progress there?”
A: “Our relevant units and institutions will continue their operations in the countries in which FETO operates whether it be the US or some other country. Rest assured that they will feel Turkey breathing down their necks. I can’t share any details, but anything can happen anytime, anywhere. Mr. President has given very clear instructions on this issue. Our relevant units are working very professionally. Operations similar to the one conducted in Kosovo can be carried out in other countries. Everyone should know that Turkey will not allow FETO to breathe a sigh of relief.”
In March of this year, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) abducted six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working for a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement in Kosovo and rendered them to Turkey the same day. The abduction of the Turkish nationals sparked a political crisis in Kosovo, and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj dismissed the interior minister along with the secret service chief. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), lamented the operation, saying that the abductees would face the risk of torture and abuse in Turkey.
More than 150,000 people have been detained and 90,000 put in pretrial detention over Gülen links in Turkey since the summer of 2016. Meanwhile, Erdoğan called on foreign governments to punish Gülen followers in their countries.
So far, a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations. In some countries, the MİT carried out the arrests itself with or without the involvement of local law enforcement.
US media last year reported that Fethullah Gülen, the movement’s leader who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, was part of a potential bargain between former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and top Turkish officials.
An alleged plan that involved Flynn forcibly removing Gülen in return for millions of dollars is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 10, 2017.
Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City.
The alleged meeting to discuss the kidnapping of Gülen followed another meeting in September in New York between Flynn and Berat Albayrak, then-energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the attendance of former CIA director James Woolsey, who described the proposal to The Wall Street Journal as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” (turkeypurge.com & turkishminute.com)