Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally intervened in lifting an entry ban for radical Muslim cleric from Kuwait Hakim al-Mutairi, who called for jihad against American and Israeli “crusaders,” confidential documents have revealed.
According to secret wiretaps obtained by Nordic Monitor, al-Mutairi was denied entry into Turkey in 2013 but he was later allowed in following the personal involvement of then-Prime Minister and now President Erdoğan. The revelations came during a phone conversation between Erdoğan’s chief of staff, Hasan Doğan, who received a call from Osama Qotb, the nephew of Egyptian cleric Sayyid Qutb, a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, on September 26, 2013 at 19:32 hours.
Qotb was calling to sort out problems with a scheduled conference on Egypt to be held in Istanbul following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi from power. The conference was cancelled under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, both of which had relatively stable ties with the Turkish government at the time. The conference organizers received a notice from the police days before the event which stated that permission had not been granted to hold the conference.
Explaining that al-Mutairi was the man behind the idea of organizing such a conference in Istanbul, Qotb pleaded with Erdoğan’s chief of staff to put the conference back on track. In the phone conversation, he also disclosed that al-Mutairi had faced problems at the border when he tried to enter Turkey in the past and that Erdoğan helped him resolve the entry ban issue.
“Now they are prepared for this conference, they worked out everything, over 100 people from abroad were invited,” Qotb told Doğan, lamenting that the police told them to cancel the event. He also added that lawmakers from Erdoğan’s party such as Emrullah Işler, a former deputy prime minister and the Turkish president’s special envoy to Libya, were involved in preparations for the conference.
Transcript of the secret wiretap:Mutairi_wiretap_Dogan_qotb
Al-Mutairi, the head of Kuwait’s Ummah Party, is a Salafist and radical preacher whose views parallel those of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He was accused of funneling financial resources to jihadists in Syria, first to Ahrar al-Sham and later to the Al Nusra Front.
The mutual alliance between al-Mutairi and Erdoğan is hardly surprising given the fact that both were keen to empower jihadist groups in Syria to topple the Bashar al-Assad government. In fact, in the wiretapped conversation Erdoğan’s chief of staff said the head of Turkish intelligence agency MIT, Hakan Fidan, was quite familiar with al-Mutairi and the conference. He said the issue had more to do with the Saudis, whom Erdoğan did not want to irritate any more than necessary.
Doğan said he would talk to the intelligence chief to find out what more could be done about the conference. At one point in the conversation Doğan asked Qotb whether he had talked to the “uncle,” a reference to Yasin al-Qadi, an Egyptian-born Saudi national who was at one time flagged by the US Treasury and the UN al-Qaeda sanctions committee. Qotb had been representing al-Qadi’s business and personal interests in Turkey and working closely with Erdoğan’s son Bilal. Qotb said he talked to al-Qadi about the conference and said the “uncle” advised him to not to proceed with the conference if it would create too much trouble for Turkey.
Nevertheless, Qotb was trying to find out who gave the order for the cancellation of the Egypt conference in Istanbul. He explained that he talked to a journalist (not named in the wiretap) and added that the journalist was working with Turkish intelligence. According to Qotb, the journalist claimed that the written directive came from the Foreign Ministry based on an order from Erdoğan’s office. Qotb claimed this was a perception matter and that the issue must be limited to the Foreign Ministry and not implicate Erdoğan in any way. Doğan said he understood the delicacy of the matter and would take care of it.
Qotb further requested that Erdoğan’s chief of staff intervene in relaxing the restrictions placed on Kuwaiti cleric al-Mutairi while he was in Turkey. He said the police would not even allow al-Mutairi to distribute his books at his hotel.
Mutairi is designated as a terrorist by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain. He has been openly supportive of Erdoğan’s Islamist regime for years. In August 2018, when the Erdoğan government faced financial problems, al-Mutairi claimed Turkey had come under attack by the US and the West and said it was an obligation on the part of all Muslims to help Turkey as part of jihad. He was involved with a Turkish charity group called Misk İnsani Yardım Derneği.
The wiretap was authorized by the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court, which was looking into terrorism-related cases. The authorization was granted on September 18, 2013 as part of investigation file No. 2012/656.
Al-Qadi, Doğan and Erdoğan’s son Bilal were all leading suspects in an organized crime investigation pursued by prosecutors in Istanbul and were the subjects of detention warrants issued on December 25, 2013 by the prosecutors. However, Erdoğan stepped in, illegally preventing the execution of the warrants by ordering the police to ignore the prosecutor’s orders. After the removal of the prosecutors and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation, Erdoğan managed to whitewash the crimes of his associates.