Two cases filed against the Turkish Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MÜSİAD) in South Africa have been dropped; the cases are believed to have been orchestrated by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) to smear Turkish businessmen operating in the country.
FETÖ-affiliated South African prosecutors accused MÜSİAD South Africa Chairman Ebubekir Salim of money laundering and bid rigging, as a result Salim's assets were frozen and documents from his office were seized illegally without a warrant. On May 1, an arrest warrant was issued for Salim even though the date was an official holiday.
However, as Turkish authorities stepped in due to the absurdity of the case and the fact that FETÖ was involved in it, the first case against Salim was dropped on June 27 and the second one on July 6. At the time, Turkey's Ambassador to South Africa, Elif Çomoğlu Ülgen, said that FETÖ would not be able to reach its goals in the country even though their presence is very strong.
"South Africa is one of the countries where FETÖ is the strongest. But they will also see that they will never be able to reach anything with this smear campaign. We have been in regular dialogue with South African authorities since July 15, 2016 - both in terms of political channels and legal cooperation," she said.
Following the decision, Salim said that FETÖ's attempts have been thwarted. Previously, in a written statement, MÜSİAD called the case "a very extensive and extremely organized smear campaign." The association also said that it would not let FETÖ and affiliated people defame MÜSİAD and Turkish businesspeople. MÜSİAD stressed that it is aware that South African authorities would not allow FETÖ to threaten MÜSİAD's chairman in the country as well as Turkish and South African businesspeople.
FETÖ's influence could easily be seen over the course of legal proceedings. On Twitter, for example, FETÖ-linked accounts spread defamation and propaganda. "Erdoğan uses all means to expand his political agenda through different institutions. MUSIAD is the one which tries to manipulate business people in South Africa, especially Muslim businesspeople and NGOs," said one FETÖ-linked account with the handle Ahmet Timol.
Meanwhile, The Star newspaper in South Africa apologized to Salim for releasing fake news, spread by FETÖ militants. "The news about the businessman accused of fraud has been misleading. We have not received a statement from him or his representative while preparing the news as a newspaper, which is against our publishing principles and we will start an internal discipline process for those responsible," it said.