Two businessmen accused of funding the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) returned to Turkey Monday after they fled the country two days after last year's coup bid blamed on FETÖ.
Halil İbrahim Aydın and Sami Çiçek were not on the list of 130 people whose citizenship would be removed if they did not return to Turkey in three months. Still, when the news broke last week that Turkey seeks to denaturalize terror suspects, they decided to return from Denmark, complying with arrest warrants issued for their membership of a terrorist group.
Police arrested the two men at an airport in Konya. Aydın and Çiçek are accused of financing FETÖ's activities and running "a board of executives" which oversees financial activities of the terrorist group.
Authorities had seized the assets of the two men after they fled abroad last year.
The decision by the Interior Ministry to revoke the citizenship of terror suspects unless they comply with the law was published in the Official Gazette last week.
The ministry published a list of suspects that includes Fetullah Gülen, the leader of FETÖ, who is believed to be behind last year's bloody coup bid, his senior aides and three former lawmakers from two parties linked to the PKK terrorist group.
The Interior Ministry announcement urges those on the list to return and surrender to judiciary authorities in order to avoid denaturalization.
It is highly unlikely that Fetullah Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999, will return to Turkey to testify in trials where he faces several charges that carry life sentences. Gülen denies the allegations, although evidence strongly points to his followers who infiltrated the army, as being behind the coup bid. Ankara has been actively seeking Gülen's extradition from the U.S.
The loss of citizenship for those involved in acts of terrorism has been a hotly debated issue in Turkey, especially following a wave of deadly attacks by the PKK in the past two years. The government had not pressed forward on the issue, but following last year's coup attempt, the matter was brought up again in the media.
In January, a new decree issued by the government as part of the post-coup state of emergency paved the way for the revocations of citizenship. The decree states that some of the charges which puts person at risk of losing their citizenship include: violation of constitutional order, assassination attempt on the president, crimes against the legislative body and armed uprisings against the government - all charges related to the coup attempt.
A court in the southern province of Adana asked the justice ministry to strip Fetullah Gülen of his Turkish citizenship recently in a trial where he is accused of running a terrorist organization. The court said in a letter to the ministry that they were unable to hear the testimony of Gülen and that "the ministry should pursue the necessary action."
The move comes amid Turkey's effort to round up suspects loyal to the terrorist group accused of masterminding last year's coup attempt that left 250 people dead.
Thousands of FETÖ members were detained and arrested following the putsch attempt that was staved off thanks to strong public resistance. However, a large number, mostly senior figures of FETÖ, are believed to have fled abroad immediately after the coup attempt or shortly before it.