Prime Minister Binali Yildirim Saturday (Nov 11) denied Turkey’s involvement in an alleged plot involving former U.S security adviser Michael Flynn to kidnap U.S.-based controversial cleric Fetullah Gulen, allegedly behind last year’s coup attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Extraditing Gulen is a major priority for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In an interview with CNN television host Fareed Zakaria, Yildirim said Turkey was expecting the White House to extradite Gulen. However, “we see that there is no signal [through] which extradition will occur,” said Yildirim.
When asked if Flynn had given any assurances to Turkey, Yildirim said: “No, we are not dealing with Michael Flynn, we are dealing with the government of United States.”
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Michael Flynn and his son’s alleged plan to forcibly remove Gulen from the United States and deliver him to Turkey.
Flynn, who is President Trump’s former national security adviser, and his son Michael Flynn Jr. were allegedly were involved in a plan to deliver Fethullah Gulen to the Turkish government, which views Gulen as a political enemy and has pressed the U.S. for his extradition, The Journal reported. In exchange, Flynn and Flynn Jr. would be paid as much as $15 million.
Flynn — who was forced out of his White House job this year after revelations that he had misled officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador — reportedly discussed the plan with Turkish government representatives last December. The meeting caught the attention of FBI, who have questioned at least four people about it.
The Journal quoted one person who spoke to the FBI as saying that the alleged discussions included transporting Pennsylvania based-Gulen, on a private jet to the Turkish prison island Imrali. Turkish officials, according to The Journal, first raised the possibility of removing Gulen from the country by force in an earlier meeting that took place in September.
Flynn had publicly supported Gulen’s extradition in an op-ed published on The Hill — a U.S. political website — on Nov. 8, the U.S. presidential election day, according to Zakaria.
Yildirim said the Turkish justice minister was in contact with his U.S. counterpart regarding Turkey’s extradition request. “They were in communication. They are still in communication to provide some progress on that matter.”
He compared the defeated coup attempt in Turkey to the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, adding that Turkey was the first country to offer help and send its army to Afghanistan to fight the U.S. war on terror.
“We didn’t ask who was behind this. The United States said this is Al-Qaeda behind of this attack and Al-Qaeda is responsible. Nobody asked the United States is there any evidence that Al-Qaeda did so,” he said.
Flynn’s top attorney in a statement, on Nov 10, called the allegations “outrageous” and “false”.
Flynn, who only lasted 24 days as Trump’s national security adviser, has been a key figure in Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused FETO and its leader Gulen plotting the July 15, 2016 attempted coup, which left 250 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Apparently, Turkish-US relations are tense at present.
In early last month, Turkish investigators arrested Metin Topuz, a 35-year employee of the U.S. Istanbul Consulate on suspicion of collaborating with Fetullah Gulen’s organization in regard to the various crimes they have committed in Turkey over the past several years.
Turkish society had been aware for several months that someone at the U.S. Consulate had been in frequent contact with Gulen’s operatives, wrote Adam McConnel, Professor at Sabanci University of Istanbul. His comment titled “New balance in Turkish-American relations” was published the Anadolu news agency.
But U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass, whose tweets, public statements, and actions over the past two years had already made him unwelcome, chose to completely ignore the Istanbul Consulate’s cloudy and deeply disturbing communications with Gulen’s adherents.
If those conversations were simply a part of Topuz’s responsibilities at the Consulate, then the Ambassador could, at the very least, have explained that to Turkish society.
Bass, however, chose to condescend to Turkish society in relation to a matter that all Turkish citizens care greatly about, .
Gulen’s followers took 250 Turkish lives in July 2016, but the former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey did not deem the issue important enough to take the necessary and logical step of informing Turkish society why Topuz had been on the phone with Gulen’s operatives so frequently. No attempt was made to provide transparency or soothe Turkish public sentiment, Adam McConnel said.
Instead, Ambassador Bass decided to make a diplomatic gaffe of monumental proportions.
Without advance notice to Turkish authorities or to Turkish society, he suspended visa application procedures late on Sunday, Oct. 8, for Turkish citizens, claiming that the arrest of Topuz constituted a security threat to U.S. missions in Turkey.
Turkey, no longer the U.S.’s patsy, immediately implemented the same restrictions for U.S. citizens, and a full-blown crisis erupted between the two countries.
To top off the disgraceful situation, U.S. officials demanded that Turkish authorities return Topuz’s telephone, claiming that it is a security threat for them and that the phone is protected under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Because of the other problems plaguing Turkish-American affairs, official U.S. behavior in regard to Topuz’s arrest has caused far greater harm to relations between the two NATO allies than might have been the case otherwise, McConnel argues.
Look at it this way: at the exact same time the U.S. has sent hundreds of truckloads of weapons to the PKK’s Syrian branch, the U.S. claims to be highly concerned about a telephone used to help Gulen’s cultists carry out extralegal activities, essentially sabotage, intended to harm Turkish state and society.
“What do Turkish citizens understand from that? That Turkish lives and security are not as important to U.S. officials as a single cell phone. And then U.S. officials express surprise that anti-Americanism rise in Turkey?,” concludes McConnel.
Gulen movement declared a terrorist group
On June 1, 2016, President Erdogan officially designated the Gulen movement a terrorist group and said he would pursue its members whom he accused of trying to topple the government.
Gulen, described by Pape Escobar as a CIA asset, has long been accused by leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers, President Erdogan and his inner circle of forming and heading a terrorist organization to topple the Turkish government through insiders in the police and other state institutions.
Critics point to a video that emerged in 1999 in which Gulen seemed to suggest that his followers should infiltrate mainstream institutions. “You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres ” You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey.”
According to the Diplomat, in May 2015, Tajikistan had become the latest Central Asian country to close schools linked to the Gulen movement. In fact, Tajikistan’s decision to close the schools reflected a wider trend in the region. The Turkish Daily Sabah reported in mid-May 2015 that Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kazakhstan, Somalia, and Japan have all begun procedures to close Gulen-linked schools. In July 2014, Azerbaijan closed Gulen schools on fears of a parallel government. Uzbekistan shut down its Gulen schools in 1999. In Russian Chechnya and Dagestan regions Gulen-backed schools were once banned by President Putin. The Gulen website says that the schools are back in operation.
A Turkish court in December 2014 issued an arrest warrant for Gulen. Turkish government has asked for his repatriation.
Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Tellingly, in 2010, Gulen shocked Turkey when he supported brutal Israeli operation on May 31, 2010 against the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of six ships of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Turkish led flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (degreesHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the illegal and inhumane Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.
During the raid, nine activists were killed including eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American, and many more were wounded. Volunteers had come from over forty countries, united by the simplicity of their mission: to publicly deliver aid to Gaza in order to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade on small, densely populated Gaza strip.
In his 2010 Wall Street Journal interview, Gulen commented on the incident, saying, “It is not easy to say if they [the IHH] are politicized or not”. He continued by insisting that the IHH should have sought permission from Israel before transporting aid to Gaza.
During his interview with Cuneyt zdemir in 2010, Gulen refused to refer to the victims of the Mavi Marmara as ‘martyrs’: “It is out of the question to call these people martyrs. They knew they were going there to get killed and went at their own discretion”.
Moreover, his followers tried to portray the involvement of Mavi Marmara in the Flotilla as a form of “jihadism”, or radical militant Islamist action. Consequently, the stance of Gulen and his movement vis–vis the flotilla has been and still is a subject of criticism in Turkey.
Not surprisingly, Gulen calls for shredding five percent of Islam to make it acceptable to the West. One of his popular mantras is: “Build schools instead of mosques.”