The investigation into militants from the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) responsible for infiltrating the law enforcement revealed that the group collected TL 3.5 million ($1 million) monthly from its followers as "donations" and used it to finance its crimes. Militants also garnered gold worth TL 18 million from followers, the investigation into so-called "secret imams" show. Imam is the term used for civilian members of the terrorist group who oversee the activities of its infiltrators in law enforcement working as police chiefs or low-ranking policemen. Money, named "himmet" (donation) by FETÖ, was used for multiple purposes, from covering expenses of lawyers defending the group's members, to finance the escape of wanted Gülenists abroad and for expenses for hideouts in Turkey where fugitive militants stayed.
FETÖ is accused of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt last year that killed 248 people and injured hundreds. The terrorist group, which posed as a religious charity for decades, had moved to seize power in multiple coup attempts last year and in 2013. Since then, a string of investigations disclosed that Gülenists involved a wide array of crimes, from money laundering to orchestrating sham trials to imprison critics and conspiring against anyone opposing the clout of FETÖ in Turkey.
Recently, authorities launched nationwide operations to capture secret imams assigned to infiltrate the police and detained dozens of people. A large number of police officers found to be infiltrators of FETÖ were dismissed from duty and detained following the coup attempt.
The investigation also shows the group, upon orders from its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen, funded think-tanks, social media accounts and other outlets for pro-FETÖ propaganda by money collected from its followers and financially supported FETÖ-linked civil servants, soldiers and others dismissed from duty after the foiled putsch bid. A tranche of donations was used to finance FETÖ-linked companies. The group runs a global network of schools and companies that rapidly grew thanks to money collected from followers under the guise of donations to charities.
FETÖ also set up two companies to launder money collected from police infiltrators and donations were used for construction of housing units. Two companies were appointed trustees when their links to the group were discovered.
Police sources told Turkish media outlets that money was deposited in safes rented from banks and in one safe, they found $597,000 as well as checks worth TL 600,000 in one of the safes leased to a FETÖ member.
Though the terrorist group was designated as "a national threat" a few years ago, Turkey has stepped up the crackdown on FETÖ since the coup attempt after it was revealed that the group's infiltrators in the army planned it with the approval of Fetullah Gülen and under the leadership of Adil Öksüz, a fugitive point man for Gülen. Thousands were dismissed from the army and hundreds were detained or arrested for links to Gülenists while companies associated with the group were appointed trustees.
FETÖ is accused of planting its members everywhere, from police to the judiciary, the army and bureaucracy for years. Disguising their ties to the group, followers managed to rise to top ranks. They became generals in the army and senior police chiefs. Through "imams," FETÖ monitored the infiltrators and gave them orders. Imams are often unassuming figures, such as a shopkeeper in a small town or a teacher, but they held immense power within the group, commanding police chiefs, generals and high-ranking bureaucrats.
Yesterday, police launched operations in 17 cities including Istanbul to capture 53 senior FETÖ militants who are accused of commanding infiltrators in National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the army, National Police and ministries. The number of detentions were not clear when Daily Sabah went to print.
Elsewhere, a FETÖ "imam" fell to his death as he tried to flee when police stormed his house. Mustafa Hikmet Kayapalı, wanted for being an "imam" for the eastern city of Erzurum - the hometown of Fetullah Gülen - was holding a meeting in a third-floor apartment in the western city of Balıkesir when the police raided the place. Kayapalı attempted to jump from the balcony but stopped at the last minute and grabbed the balcony's iron bars, which eventually fell off under his weight, and fell to his death.