FETÖ's military point man reveals terrorist group's clout

HALIT TURAN
ISTANBUL
Published 18.01.2018 00:00
An anti-coup crowd looks at tanks and putschist soldiers on an Istanbul bridge where 34 people were killed on July 15, 2016.
An anti-coup crowd looks at tanks and putschist soldiers on an Istanbul bridge where 34 people were killed on July 15, 2016.

A point man handling FETÖ infiltrators in the military who turned himself in has shed light on how the terrorist group established its network in the military and has said the group prevented confessions by brainwashing its members

A point man for the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people, gave an exclusive interview to the Sabah newspaper after he turned himself in to the authorities and helped uncover the group's infiltrators in the army. A.K., who only revealed his initials, detailed how the group managed to hide its tracks in the army and how the group's members are prevented by senior FETÖ members from coming forward with confessions.

A.K. is among the dozens of "crypto" members of the group who turned themselves in recently with the hope of a reduction in their sentence under a remorse law. In the past three months, 72 suspects confessed their role in the terrorist group, according to Anadolu Agency (AA). One of the most significant among them is Burak Akın, a protecting officer of the Land Forces Command at the time of the coup attempt. Akın was shot in the leg by putschists while guarding the commander. He turned himself in last month, helping the authorities arrest more infiltrators in the army and prompting more officers to come forward as FETÖ members.

In his capacity as a "secret brother," A.K. was tasked with handling high-ranking military officers working for the terrorist group. He recently turned himself in to the security directorate in the central city of Konya. His confessions helped the authorities find 94 "secret brothers" and 48 infiltrators of the group in the army. He says not even his family was aware of his work for FETÖ. "I was coordinating [infiltrated] military officers working at military schools. I was a handler for eight years and have been relaying the messages of senior cadres to military personnel and cadets. None of them knew each other's link [to FETÖ]," he said, pointing out the sinister scheme of the secretive group.

A.K. regularly met with infiltrators he was responsible for and his account shows the utmost secrecy in the group's affairs. "Nobody brings cellphones to the meetings and if they travel to the meeting point by car, they park it some place distant from the point. They are also required to arrive at the point through different routes each time," he said. Though the authorities arrested or detained thousands after the coup bid, A.K. says it is very difficult to decipher infiltrators with no apparent links to the group and who are still on active duty in the army. Confessions and investigations indicate that FETÖ, which posed as a charity group with religious undertones, urged its infiltrators to abstain from doing anything that would be evidently religious. Infiltrators were advised not to openly perform prayers and urged to drink alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam. A.K. said Turkey faces the threat of another coup risk unless the group's infiltrators are identified. "[FETÖ] tells its members that they would be tortured if they surrender," A.K. added, noting that some still believe the group due to their brainwashing.

Elaborating on how influential FETÖ was on infiltrators in the army, he said the group "knew everything" that happens in the army thanks to the infiltrators. "[Secret brothers] would be relayed even an ordinary remark by an officer if the infiltrators believed it was significant," he said, noting that the infiltrators would regularly report to them about what happened and would happen at the military unit they were serving.

FETÖ would recruit its infiltrators while they were still in middle school. "Members prepare a list of students who would be directed to military schools and hand it to a 'director' [a high-ranking FETÖ member] in Ankara. The students we picked would be accepted into the military school and we used to hold meetings with them every two weeks. Every student is graded between one to five in terms of their loyalty [to FETÖ]," A.K. said, adding that most infiltrators would be planted into intelligence and recruitment units of the military. "If a student turns out to be problematic, they would be expelled from military school," he said, highlighting the group's influence in those schools. The terrorist group also decided which cadets will be appointed to each military unit and would also arrange the appointment of FETÖ-linked officers to the military units they chose.

The terrorist group faces an increased crackdown after the coup attempt in 2016. Prosecutors yesterday issued arrant warrants for 31 suspects linked to FETÖ in 17 cities and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). The suspects were on-duty soldiers, former soldiers, and two former cadets.

Led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gülen, FETÖ sought to topple the Turkish government and seize power on July 15, 2016, through a coup and imposition of martial law. The attempt was prevented by soldiers loyal to the government, along with police units and millions of civilians in support of democracy. Coup trials are underway across Turkey while more than 300 people, mostly pro-coup troops, have been handed down sentences since the trials started in late 2016. Apart from the July 15 bid, FETÖ is accused of carrying out two similar attempts to topple the government in 2013 through its infiltrators in law enforcement and the judiciary.

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