Investigators examining correspondence of a leading figure of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) discovered the group, blamed for the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, sought to purchase the British newspaper The Independent.
An exchange of messages between Süleyman Tiftik and an unidentified member of FETÖ dating back to 2016 published by Anadolu Agency (AA) shows the group considered contacting The Independent's publisher shortly before the newspaper ended its print edition. Tiftik, who remains at large and is believed to be in Belgium, was in charge of the "western Europe" structure of FETÖ, officials say. The correspondence was found during the deciphering of messages in ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used and developed by the terrorist group. They are included among evidence in a lawsuit against FETÖ underway in the capital Ankara.
One message from the unidentified ByLock user says The Independent would stop its print edition and switch to digital, adding that the newspaper's publisher is "open to bids [for acquisition]." Another message sent to Tiftik by the same user says "dear brother, should we arrange a meeting with Independent's owners and ask for their price tag?" It is unclear whether the terrorist group proceeded with the meeting. Another message sent to Tiftik speaks about The Times, another British newspaper. The sender says he arranged an interview in The Times for Akın İpek, a fugitive businessman among leading figures of the terrorist group. İpek is currently in London after a British court rejected his extradition to Turkey. The message says İpek later decided not to give interview to the newspaper.
Turkey sent an extradition request to Belgium for Tiftik, but Brussels has yet to respond. Tiftik is among 54 fugitive FETÖ members on trial at Ankara's Fourth High Criminal Court in one of many cases against the terrorist group.
As part of their efforts to bring members of the FETÖ network back to Turkey, authorities sent extradition requests for 452 suspects to 83 countries following the coup attempt in 2016 that killed 251 people. A small number of countries complied with the requests, while the rest, including the United States where group's leader Fetullah Gülen lives, have yet to respond.