Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday (9 April) his country is determined to continue the fight against what he calls the terrorist movement of Fethullah Gülen and bring home all “traitors” from abroad.
In recent days Turkey’s secret services have abducted six “Gülenists” from Kosovo and three from Gabon. Ankara blames Gülen, a US-based cleric, and his movement for a failed coup attempt in 2016, which Gülen denies.
Erdogan made the statement during a joint press conference in Ankara with the visiting Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Zhenbekov.
On 29 March, the Turkish MIT intelligence service abducted from Kosovo six alleged Gülenists, in a surprise move that created a huge scandal in the small Western Balkan country.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the entire operation – revoking their residence permits, detention, emergency deportation and the secret extradition to Turkey from Kosovo – was conducted without his knowledge and without his permission. He has dismissed the country’s interior minister and the secret service chief over the affair.
Ankara said the six arrested were recruiters for a network run by Gülen and had helped people accused of connections to the network leave Turkey.
In a speech during a meeting of his AK party in Ankara last Friday, Erdogan said the MIT had brought the six Turks back “in coordination with the Kosovo intelligence.”
Speaking at an April 7 rally in the western province of Denizli, Erdogan declared that Turkey has so far snatched some 80 members of the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization (FETO) and brought them back to Turkey. “We will chase them no matter where they flee,” he assured members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The Turkish press reported on Tuesday that three “Gülenists” have been abducted from Gabon and brought back to Turkey on a special airplane of the Turkish intelligence.
The suspects were involved in the administration of schools run by Gulen’s network, Anadolu agency said, adding that they were also users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app the government says is used by the cleric’s supporters.
Thousands of Gülen’s supporters live in EU countries and are generally well integrated into society. Many have applied for asylum and received protection or citizenship in the country where they live.
There is ample evidence of threats, mob violence, vandalism and threats against clubs of Hizmet (‘The Service’, as the supporters of Gülen call themselves) in Western countries by supporters of Erdogan who living abroad.
MIT has a significant influence on the Turkish diaspora in Western countries, where large communities of ‘Gastarbeiters’ live. Ankara shows its leverage especially on the occasion of Turkish elections. However, it is difficult to imagine that MIT would abduct people from the street in Western Europe.
Reportedly, Bulgaria is the only EU country which extradites alleged Gülenists to Turkey.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has apparently bowed to pressure from Ankara out of fear that Bulgaria’s biggest neighbour could open up the border and flood EU territory with migrants.