Azerbaijan launches criminal investigation against alleged Gülenists

A view of Baku. [Georgi Gotev]

Azerbaijan, a country with strong relations with Turkey, is reportedly cracking down on local supporters of US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of having masterminded the 15 July failed coup.

Azerbaijan’s prosecutor-general on 15 August announced the opening of a criminal investigation into FETO, a group Turkey accuses of being behind the failed putsch [Ankara calls the Gülen organisation “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation”] . The group was officially placed on Turkey’s terror list earlier this year.

Azerbaijan has close ties with Turkey and Ankara has consistently supported Baku in a conflict with Armenian-backed separatists over its breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

According to press reports, FETO also exercises influence in Azerbaijan as well as other Turkic-speaking ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia.

“To prevent illegal actions on the territory of Azerbaijan by the supporters of the terrorist organisation of Fethullah Gulen, the prosecutor-general has launched a criminal case,” spokesman Eldar Sultanov told Agence France-Presse.

The spokesman did not clarify how many people are expected to be prosecuted.

Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey, has already shuttered a private television channel for broadcasting an interview with Gülen shortly after the coup attempt.

The Azeri court of appeal revoked the license of ANS television station based on a lawsuit filed by the National Television and Radio Council (NTRC). The law allows authorities to close media deemed to be broadcasting extremist propaganda or discriminating on ethnic grounds, amongst other offences.

“ANS took a position that contradicted the strategic partnership between the Azeri and Turkish people by offering support to Fethullah Gulen and his supporters, who organized the bloody events that led to multiple deaths,” NTRC said in a statement.

Explaining the closure, Baku said it wanted to “avoid provocations aimed at damaging the strategic partnership between Turkey and Azerbaijan.”

Representatives for the station said the court’s decision was undemocratic and they planned to file an appeal.

Azerbaijan is not the only country which seems to collaborate with Turkey in an effort to bring to justice the Gülen supporters. On 11 August, Bulgaria handed over to Turkey alleged Gülenist Abdullah Büyük, a Turkish businessman who had sought political asylum in the country.

Bulgarians outraged by deportation of Gülen supporter to Turkey

Bulgarian NGOs, columnists and a junior coalition partner in Boyko Borissov’s government have all expressed outrage at the news of the extradition to Turkey of an alleged supporter of Fetullah Gülen, the US-exiled cleric accused by Ankara of masterminding the 15 July coup.

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