Last year, one day after the coup attempt, Fetullah Gülen simultaneously gave a number of interviews to Western media outlets to defend himself against the unanimous condemnations he received from every sector of Turkish society over his role in the plot.
Gülen's followers are particularly shrewd in public relations, and establishing a grand story to counter allegations made against them. It seems this is why Gülen once again appeared in international media outlets last week, and he insisted on his innocence to solidify his message.
Let's give Gülen the benefit of doubt and examine his comments. He repeatedly told the media that he has opposed the military coups in Turkey throughout his life. However, in his article published in Sızıntı magazine in October 1980, one month after the military takeover, he lashed out against the degenerate Turkish elite and praised the Turkish army for the coup.
"We salute the Mehmetcik (religious name given to Turkish soldiers) who come to our rescue like [prophet] Khıdr," he wrote in an article called "The Last Outpost." He later told a Turkish publication in 2005 that the coup ring leader Kenan Evren could very well go to heaven because he made religious courses compulsory in schools.
Gülen also demanded the resignation of the Turkish government, led by Necmettin Erbakan of the Welfare Party (RP), which had an ideology based on political Islam, during a soft military takeover in 1997. When Turkish generals forced Erbakan to sign a list of military-imposed legal changes, Gülen told the Turkish media that Erbakan and his comrades weren't successful, so therefore they should leave the government. The military leaders later targeted Gülen in a coup he publicly supported.
So, basically he flat-out misled journalists when he said he has never supported the coups in Turkey.
His comments on the nature of the coup also evolved in a very contradictory way.
He suggested in his interview last year that the coup could have been a plot to hurt him and his followers.
"There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup and it could be meant for further accusations [against Gülen and his followers]," he said.
In an interview with CNN he went further.
"It looks more like a Hollywood movie than a military coup. It seems something like a staged scenario," he said.
When asked if he thought Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might have planned the coup, Gülen said he would "consider such a claim slander."
One year later Gülen once again changed his view on this. He told Egypt Today, referencing experts, that "some of the secular nationalist hardliners designed this movement to look like a coup; accordingly, Erdoğan's troops will have the chance to get rid of all the Turkish army members who support me."
Gülen now accuses Erdoğan of staging the coup and accepts that he has a tangible presence in the Turkish army, rather than just followers, since in theory the government perceived them sizable enough to "orchestrate" a coup for their removal.
The most important point made by Gülen was about theologian and university professor Adil Öksüz, a key suspect who was captured by the security forces at Akıncı Air Base in Ankara on July 15. Öksüz, with the help of suspected Gülenists within the security forces and judiciary, was later released.
Since then he has disappeared. Turkish prosecutors say he traveled to the United States and returned to Turkey on July 13. Gülen told France 24 that Öksüz became part of his study circle when Öksüz was a student at school.
Gülen also said he might have met Öksüz a couple of years earlier but not before the coup. Multiple pictures and a video show Gülen has met Öksüz more than a couple of times since the 1990s. One particular documentary produced by Gülen's followers interviewed him as someone knowledgeable about Fetullah Gülen.
Gülen also said many politicians, including Turkish Intel Chief Hakan Fidan, have visited him over the course of the years. By underlying this fact he is actually weakening his own claim that he has been never a political figure. Anyone who has studied Turkish history would know that he has been accused of leading an infiltration into the Turkish state in the secular-leaning Turkish governments since the early 1990s.
Graham Fuller, a senior CIA official and a shameless Gülen supporter, told an American media outlet last week that Gülenists have spread throughout state institutions such as the courts and the military "to ensure these institutions would not be used against them again."
Finally, Gülen himself and American officials repeatedly bring up the issue of a need for ample evidence proving Gülen's guilt. American officials don't perceive the testimonies, countless confessions and the other evidence as a probable cause for Gülen's arrest. They require direct evidence tying Gülen to the coup.
This a strange request since Gülen has been living in the U.S. for the last 18 years and the Turkish government has no means of conducting intelligence operations or investigations on U.S. soil. Even more peculiar, U.S. officials last year confessed to the Wall Street Journal that Gülen wasn't using telephones or committing instructions to paper.
"Privately, U.S. authorities sometimes compare him and his followers to a cult, operating with a high level of internal secrecy that makes their actions and intentions difficult to fathom at times," the Wall Street Journal reported.
As a result, this is basically an impossible case.
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