Following the suicides of 20 suspects arrested in post-coup investigations against the Gülenist terror cult (FETÖ), the probability of a death order from the leader of the shadowy group Fetullah Gülen is being evaluated.
According to the article of Turkish daily Star, Gülen, who is regarded as "the universal leader" by its followers, issued an order (fatwa) for arrested members to commit suicide after the bloody July 15 coup attempt.
The article states that so far 20 FETÖ members have committed suicide after being arrested, with the latest one being Burak Açıkalın, a former engineer at the Intelligence Department of the General Directorate of Security (Turkish National Police).
Açıkalın was arrested for leaking confidential list, gathered by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), which listed the names of people who used the cult's encrypted secret mobile communication app Bylock.
Bylock was widely used by FETÖ members to communicate and pass on directives.
The article says it is probable that some FETÖ members committed suicide upon Gülen's order, whereas some others were executed by other FETÖ members after refusing to follow the suicide order.
The article also underlines that Gülen previously told its followers that suicide is acceptable if it is carried out for the sake of the cult, which labels itself as the "Hizmet Movement", despite acknowledging that suicide is among the worst of sins in Islam.
Although Gülenists portray "Hizmet" as a moderate religious group focusing on peaceful interfaith dialogue and education, their approach resembles extremist suicide cults, whose members prefer to kill themselves en masse instead of seeing their goals fail.
Gülen's words came in a meeting with cult members held in an unspecified date, but were filmed almost like all of his speeches, which were later broadcasted in affiliated television channels, websites, radio stations or distributed in copies to the movement's student houses.
"In the eyes of Allah, the greatest sin after blasphemy is the suicide of mankind. But many times, I even thought of that. When I was being closely monitored in that period, my God, these men have become obsessed with me… If there would be a harm to Hizmet because of me, and if my self-destruction is a way to prevent this harm to it, to my establishments, I also accept it. It is the greatest sin [in Islam] after blasphemy but I'm even willing to cope with it. You can guess that I am willing to accept beyond that," Gülen says in the footage.
"I also questioned this. Should I climb up on a building and toss myself down from a corner? Would you say yes to that for the sake of Hizmet? I should walk away and leave, to Arabia, to the deserts of Africa. Only Hizmet would be out of harm... I had learned how suicide is a great sin from God and Prophet. But if it is to be considered, it would be done to protect Hizmet and for your protection. If we were to act as if a bodyguard, we will toss ourselves into fire and disappear," he adds.
The article argues that this stance against suicides might have led FETÖ to order its arrested members to kill themselves.
Almost all suspects that had committed suicide were former government employees, including a district governor, a prosecutor, military officers, police chiefs, police officers and teachers; increasing suspicions that they were carried out in an hierarchical order.
FETÖ, also referred to as the Gülen Movement, operates on a tighly secretive structure, with leaders and representatives at the district, provincial and nation-wide levels who both act as insiders and decision-makers steering the movement.
In the July 15 coup attempt, a military junta linked to the FETÖ tried to stage a coup to topple the democratically elected president and government in Turkey and impose martial law. The attempt was prevented by troops loyal to the government, along with police units and millions of Turkish citizens in favor of democracy. In total, 246 people, mostly civilians, were killed by pro-coup soldiers while nearly 2,200 were injured.
FETÖ leader Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile on a 400-acre property in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania since 1999. He is among Turkey's most wanted, with the country exerting a tremendous effort to obtain an international arrest warrant for him, while convincing the U.S for his extradition to stand trial in Turkey.
Gülenists run a vast network of schools around the globe, but are primarily invested in charter schools in the U.S., which receive government funding but operate independent of the public school system.
Dozens of schools associated with Gülenists are facing criticism and are under investigation over the alleged misuse of federal grants and the abuse of a visa scheme being used to funnel foreign teachers into charter schools who are brought from Turkey to live in the U.S.
FETÖ, which has seen its members and sympathizers purged from state institutions, including the police and judiciary, was designated by authorities as a national threat, a classification for terrorist organizations.
Gülenists are accused of illegally wiretapping thousands of people, from the prime minister to journalists and other prominent figures.
In addition to the July 15 coup attempt in which the military was directly used, the group is being accused of using its influence in the judiciary and police to launch controversial corruption probes and controversial raids directed against government officials and their relatives.
They are also accused of imprisoning critics or anyone seen as an obstacle to the movement's attempts to gain further clout through sham trials.
Hundreds of generals, academics and others were detained for years in cases in which they were accused of attempting to stage coups.
It was later revealed that they were detained on charges based on false evidence planted by Gülenist members of law enforcement.
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