A Turkish prosecutor presented an interview by The Wall Street Journal of Fethullah Gülen, a prominent Turkish scholar and vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as criminal evidence in an indictment filed against Gülen.
The prosecutor highlighted the portion of the interview in which Gülen leveled criticism of controversial jihadist-linked Turkish charity group the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), which organized the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010. Some of the activists aboard the ship clashed with the Israeli forces that raided the ship, resulting in the killing of eight Turks and one dual Turkish-US citizen.
Gülen said in the interview that he had only recently heard of the IHH and went on to criticize the group for failing to obtain Israel’s consent before setting out on their aid mission. “Organizers’ failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid is a sign of defying authority, and will not lead to fruitful matters,” he was quoted as saying. Gülen’s taking on of the IHH, a pro-Erdoğan group that works closely with MIT, the Turkish intelligence agency, was not well received by the Erdoğan government.
The IHH has been identified as a smuggler of arms to jihadist groups in Libya and Syria and was previously reported by Russia to the United Nations Security Council for links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The IHH is known to conceal its activities under charity cover as was documented in a 2014 al-Qaeda investigation in Turkey, a probe that was later hushed up by the Erdoğan government.
The interview was conducted by journalist Joe Lauria and published by The Wall Street Journal on June 4, 2010 under the headline “Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla.” The version of the article translated into Turkish with a sub-title saying that “organizers’ failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid is a sign of defying authority” was included in the summary of proceedings prepared by the police department in Yalova as part of investigation case file No. 2015/3912, sent to the office of the chief public prosecutor in the same province.
The 1552-page document, dated May 25, 2016, lists 30 charges against Gülen without credible evidence of any criminal activity whatsoever. Much of the evidence is composed of political statements, conspiracies, newspaper clips — often from pro-Erdoğan media outlets — rumors and secret witness testimony. For example, it includes a statement from Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist writer who advises Erdoğan, which claimed the the Gülen movement was established by the Vatican, the CIA and Israel. He wanted to discredit Gülen by leveling unfounded accusations that would hit a nerve in predominantly Sunni Turkey.
Small wonder the Erdoğan government’s efforts for the extradition of Gülen have failed so far. Such documents have been transmitted to the US Justice Department since 2014 by the Erdoğan government to secure Gülen’s extradition, but such attempts have thus far failed. On July 19, 2016 Turkey submitted to the US a fresh request to arrest Gülen and on July 23, 2016 formally submitted an extradition request. After reviewing the requests, the US Department of Justice informed its Turkish counterpart that the requests had not yet met the legal standards for extradition required by the US-Turkey extradition agreement and US law. Accordingly, the Department of Justice noted, extradition could not go forward, absent additional evidence substantiating the allegations.