99 Gülenist fugitives to lose Turkish citizenship

Published 11.09.2017 00:00

The Interior Ministry issued a new list of people who face losing their citizenship if they do not return to Turkey to stand trial for terror-related charges. Most names in the 99-person list are those linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is accused of masterminding the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people. "Those persons stand to lose their citizenship if they do not return to Turkey within three months after this list is published," a statement by the ministry added to the list published in the Official Gazette yesterday.

Last week, a three-month deadline given to 130 terror suspects including FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen to return to Turkey for trial ended and if the government goes ahead with a new regulation, they will lose their Turkish citizenship. Turkish media outlets reported that no one on the list of the 130 people has returned to Turkey so far. Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999, has already ruled out a return to Turkey to testify in trials where he faces multiple life sentences.

The removal of citizenship from 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 January, a new decree issued by the government as part of the post-coup state of emergency paved the way for the removal of citizenship.

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 January decree states that some of the charges eligible for citizenship termination 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.

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 in FETÖ, are believed to have fled abroad immediately after the coup attempt or shortly before it happened.

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