During his cross-examination on Wednesday, Hüseyin Korkmaz, the former deputy head of the İstanbul Police Financial Crime Department, who has been testifying in a Iran-related multibillion-dollar money laundering case tried in New York, had denied any affiliation with US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen and the movement named after him.
Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former deputy manager of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, is on trial in New York, with prosecutors calling him the “architect” of two systems to evade US sanctions against Iran: One involving a network of couriers carting off suitcases filled with gold and another disguising assets as humanitarian food aid.
According a report by the Courthouse News, Korkmaz, who has been testifying for four days in New York trial, had to flee his native Turkey after being accused of having ties to the Gülen movement that the Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan often uses to discredit him.
However, Korkmaz flatly denied any affiliation with the movement and stated that “Whether you call it the Gülen organization or FETÖ (a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party to refer to the Gülen movement) or some other name, I am not a member of that organization.”
According to Twitter posts by Courthouse News’ reporter Adam Klasfeld, Korkmaz has given the similar answer repeatedly to the same question directed by Atilla’s lawyer Todd Harrison in many different ways. As Harrison claimed that Fethullah Gülen requested Korkmaz’s release. Korkmaz replied that “I don’t know Fethullah Gülen. … I don’t know any of these individuals.” Harrison has also claimed that the request came from a letter by Fethullah Gülen. Korkmaz replied: “This is a ridiculous thing that I have heard about for the first time from you today.”
The prosecutor asked the similar questions to Korkmaz on Thursday. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Gülen organization?” asked the prosecutor and Korkmaz replied: “No, never.” Prosecutor also asked that “Did you have anything to do with the coup?” Korkmaz replied that “No, absolutely not.”
After he was incriminated by a corruption and bribery investigation on December 17 and 25, 2013, Erdoğan has blamed the Gülen movement for multiple coup attempts. Erdoğan also claimed that criminal probes accusing high-ranking members of his government of accepting millions in bribes were actually plots to overthrow him, allegedly through orchestration by the Gülen movement.
“This is an international coup attempt,” Erdoğan said on Dec. 5, 2017. “I call on the US: Don’t you still get the July 15 FETO coup attempt?” the Turkish leader asked last week. “What are you trying to hide as all criminals of the FETO have been tried; their files are being sent to you and some of them fled to the US?”
One of the supposed criminals Erdoğan had been accusing was Korkmaz, who rapidly fell from grace as a high-ranking officer, to a prisoner, to a fugitive from his homeland. However, Korkmaz vigorously denied a Turkish indictment that he escaped, which charged him with a coup attempt, affiliation with a terrorist group, espionage and misuse of authority.
“That is correct,” Korkmaz said. “There were such allegations, and all of these allegations were baseless, and they were slanders.” The reason for these allegations, Korkmaz said, was that he had been a leader in an investigation against Erdoğan’s top allies. These names included Turkey’s former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Minister of the Interior Muammer Güler, and former Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bağış. Erdoğan himself was also a target of the investigation, code-named “No. 1,” Korkmaz testified.
“I did my job,” Korkmaz told the jury on Wednesday. “And just like all the police officers, I did what I was supposed to do as a police officer.”
Once his investigation heated up in December 2013, Korkmaz found himself reassigned from İstanbul to the most remote other corner of Turkey, Hakkari. Prison came after that, followed by an escape from Turkey through three unspecified countries before connecting with US prosecutors with evidence he had secretly stashed.
The 30-year-old said today that he does not regret his ordeals. “I do have the pride of having conducted such an investigation,” Korkmaz said. “I thank God,” he added, for allowing him to play a role in it.