Turkey plans to cancel the citizenship of members of the Gülenist Terror Group who refuse to return to the country for trial, in a new move to round up members of the group
Ankara's effort to capture members of FETÖ enters a new phase with the planned cancellation of citizenship for members of the group blamed for the July 15 coup attempt. The government will set a deadline for the return of FETÖ members who fled abroad both before the coup attempt that killed more than 240 people, and after the foiled putsch.
The move comes after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan implied that followers of the terror cult might lose their citizenship. Erdoğan, who faced the first of two coup attempts by FETÖ during his tenure as prime minister in 2013, pledged in a recent speech that Turkey would "enter into the dens (of Gülenists) and get them," adding, "If they fled to another country, I advise them to acquire citizenship of that country. They will no longer be remembered as citizens of this country."
The government is preparing a draft bill to pave the way for termination of citizenship. The bill will be part of statutory decrees adopted after implementation of the state of emergency in the wake of the coup attempt. Through a series of decrees, authorities dismissed members of the terror cult from critical posts in the police, judiciary, bureaucracy and military. The government is examining whether the cancellation of citizenship would pose a problem for extradition of FETÖ suspects, although legal experts say it would not hinder extradition processes.
Gülenists, who tried to overthrow the government in the guise of two graft probes by Gülenist judges, prosecutors and police officers in 2013, face multiple investigations after the foiled putsch in July. Turkey seeks the extradition of Gülen from the U.S., while it calls other countries to deport Gülenist fugitives. Although thousands of Gülenists were detained and arrested following the coup attempt, staved off thanks to public resistance, a large number, mostly senior figures in FETÖ, are believed to have fled abroad immediately after or shortly before it happened.
After the coup attempt, several soldiers involved in the putsch escaped to Greece aboard a military helicopter. Just two days ago, authorities captured three FETÖ members trying to flee to Greece from Turkey's Aegean coast. Three men were found among some 60 Syrian migrants who were planning to travel to the nearby Greek island of Samos from Kuşadası in western Turkey. The three were identified as Ahmet Sinan Demirsoy, Mehmet Pehlivan and Ahmet Uygur, and had been issued arrest warrants by a court in the southern province of Hatay on charges of financing the terrorist group.
Authorities were already floating the idea of stripping terrorists of Turkish citizenship. In April, the Justice Ministry announced it would work on the issue, though no concrete progress has been reported so far. The ministry's announcement followed President Erdoğan's call to that extent in remarks focused on the PKK terrorist group, another major threat to Turkey. Erdoğan has called for anyone supporting terrorism to be stripped of citizenship. "We need to be decisive, to take all necessary measures, including stripping citizenship, to deactivate terrorist group supporters. They are not even our citizens," Erdoğan said during a meeting with attorneys last April.
The French government proposed a similar law to strip French citizens with dual citizenship of their French citizenship after a string of terror attacks last year, though the idea was later scrapped.