Two reports that surfaced yesterday give insight into the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) notorious infiltration scheme and how the group cheered terror attacks and sought ways to escape from justice. One is about the confessions of a former member who gave an account of how he was directed to infiltrate the opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP). The other is about Zekeriya Öz, once a renowned prosecutor who turned out to be an infiltrator of the terrorist group in the judiciary. A report by Şebnem Bursalı from the Sabah newspaper sheds light on the ByLock correspondence of Öz, a fugitive former prosecutor described as a prominent figure in the group accused of carrying out three coup attempts in 2013 and 2016.
ByLock is an encrypted messaging app exclusively used by the terrorist group, and the encrypted correspondence between FETÖ members was deciphered by Turkish authorities cracking down on the terrorist group.
Öz, who was behind the sham trials the terrorist group used to silence its critics and the 2013 coup attempts, remains at large as he faces arrest warrants in Turkey in several criminal cases. He is believed to be currently residing in Germany.
One message sent by Öz on Aug. 20, 2015, prophesizes "a coup" by saying the "deep state" would overthrow the regime. In the message, Öz also warns fellow FETÖ members not to surrender. In another message sent in February 2016, the fugitive prosecutor discusses residing in Denmark after escaping from Turkey. The ByLock messages also show Öz discussing how to apply for asylum in Germany in 2015. "Germans may take an interest in our case. They cannot extradite us to Turkey," Öz said.
Perhaps the most chilling message in his ByLock correspondence is one sent in August 2015. "The agenda has changed in Turkey. There is a bloodbath in Turkey. It is almost like a remedy for our problems. They forgot you," correspondence between Öz and another FETÖ member about the crackdown on the terrorist group reads. The "bloodbath" refers to a string of terror attacks by Daesh and the PKK that killed hundreds of people in Turkey.
Last month, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled for a request to issue red notices for Öz and two other former prosecutors linked to the terrorist group. Öz, Celal Kara and Mehmet Yüzgeç are named in the 557-page indictment that charges them with an attempt to overthrow the government, running an armed terrorist organization, abuse of duty, forgery in official documents, violation of privacy of communications, illegal wiretapping, defamation, fraud and other charges. Apart from life sentences for attempting to overthrow the government, they will be handed down prison terms of up to 72 years if convicted.
In the northwestern city of Bursa, Ali Taşvuran, an arrested FETÖ suspect, confessed to the authorities how he was tasked by the group to infiltrate the youth branch of the CHP. Taşvuran was arrested in October. The suspect said the terrorist group paid him TL 2,200 ($563) monthly for his work in the CHP. The work covered spying on the party's activities on behalf of FETÖ. Before applying to be a member of the party, Taşvuran said he was instructed to sever his ties with FETÖ. "[FETÖ administrators] told me to close down a Bank Asya [a now-defunct lender linked to the terrorist group] account if I had one and cancel subscriptions to [FETÖ-linked] newspapers and magazines. They also told me stop seeing any one linked to Cemaat," he told interrogators, referring to the name FETÖ calls itself.
Taşvuran was an active member of the terrorist group and was in charge of indoctrinating new recruits to the group. He served as a "brother" (a point man) for students who later enrolled in military schools after they were brainwashed by the terrorist group to serve its interests.
He said the proposal to infiltrate a political party came from a regional leader for FETÖ in Bursa after the terrorist group faced a nationwide crackdown following the coup attempts in 2013. "They told me that we were going through a difficult period, and I would be given a task in politics. They asked me which party I could infiltrate. It would be either [the ruling] AK Party or the CHP. I chose the CHP and became a member of the party," he said. He said members of the terrorist group instructed him to take public speaking classes and training on how to use social media efficiently so that he could rise in the ranks of the CHP. Upon his orders, Taşvuran also moved and started living alone, cutting off all ties to FETÖ. "They paid my rent and my expenses while working for the CHP. I used to secretly communicate with a group member codenamed Serdar every month. He personally delivered my payments every month," he said.
Taşvuran said he was assigned an "imam" (the name given to senior FETÖ figures tasked with overseeing infiltrators' actions), and he regularly met him to convey what CHP members were talking about and intra-party decisions. He claimed he decided to quit the party after some time, but FETÖ opposed it. "I told them I missed my friends [in the terrorist group], but they told me that I can't quit because it was an important mission," he said in his confessions.
FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration of the judiciary, the military, law enforcement and bureaucracy. It openly declared war against the Turkish state in 2013 when prosecutors, judges and police officers linked to the group tried to topple the government under the guise of two anti-graft probes targeting people close to the government.
Since the latest coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in which 249 people were killed by putschists, Turkey has stepped up counterterrorism operations against the group. Thousands were detained or arrested in a post-coup crackdown while thousands others were dismissed from their public sector jobs.