Fugitive terror suspect Fetullah Gülen may flee to Egypt, report says

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 24.01.2019 00:03
Updated 24.01.2019 00:06
Fetullah Gülen speaks to journalists in his Pennsylvania compound on July 17, 2016. The fugitive leader of FETÖ is the prime suspect in 45 separate trials in Turkey.
Fetullah Gülen speaks to journalists in his Pennsylvania compound on July 17, 2016. The fugitive leader of FETÖ is the prime suspect in 45 separate trials in Turkey.

A Police Academy report on the activities of FETÖ, the terrorist group behind the 2016 coup attempt, says the group's U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen may take shelter in Egypt if deported from the United States

The report, "FETÖ As An International Threat," prepared by Turkey's prestigious security sciences school Police Academy, says rumors that the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen would flee to Egypt were "not unfounded," citing FETÖ's ties to the country. Gülen, who currently resides in Pennsylvania in the United States, is accused of ordering the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey that killed 251 people. The terrorist group used its infiltrators in the military to carry out the bid, prosecutors say. The report says the group has built up a growth model in Egypt that first started with the launch of schools.

"It recruited militants through schools and expanded its social base before diversifying its activities via a nonprofit organization while spreading its propaganda through media outlets. Today, FETÖ has a strong network in Egypt," it says.

Egypt has been an important regional center for FETÖ that broadened its presence in the country in the 1990s, according to the report, which adds that it sent its members from Turkey and Central Asian countries to Egypt. It cites Hira, an Arabic magazine associated with FETÖ and schools in Cairo and Alexandria, as entities linked to the terrorist group.

Turkey has strained ties with Egypt after a coup by Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that overthrew the elected government and President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. The Police Academy report says FETÖ was quick to realize that there was a potential to exploit when the ties between the two countries were severed and the terrorist group strengthened its relations with the coup administration in exchange for supplying it with "intelligence."

"It was not a coincidence that Egypt was the only country to express reservations when the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation unanimously agreed on a draft resolution to list FETÖ as a terrorist group in 2016," the report says.

FETÖ's years of activities in Egypt helped it to maintain strong relations with Egyptian intelligence. Therefore, rumors that the group's leader, Fetullah Gülen, would take shelter in Egypt if he were deported from the United States are not unfounded. The terrorist group's members residing in Middle Eastern and African countries are known to have held meetings in Egypt since the 2016 coup attempt and devised new strategies for their activities in the region. FETÖ members also occasionally show up on Egyptian TV news and make anti-Turkey comments on air, the report adds.

Gülen is among Turkey's most wanted suspects and probably the only one whose exact location is known. The United States refuses to designate his group as a terrorist organization, much to the chagrin of Ankara, which says "folders and folders" of evidence showing FETÖ's connection to the coup attempt were sent to Washington. He is the prime suspect in 45 separate trials in Turkey and faces charges ranging from an attempt to overthrow the government, running a terrorist group to forgery and illegal wiretapping. Prosecutors ask for multiple instances of aggravated life imprisonment for Gülen in most cases.

Gülen's group formed a "parallel state" in Turkey by planting its members everywhere from law enforcement and the military to the judiciary and bureaucracy before it attempted to topple the government, first in 2013, then later in 2016. Gülen himself was planning to return to Turkey from the United States where he has lived since 1999 if the coups succeeded, prosecutors say.

Turkey has already secured the extradition of several key FETÖ figures from other countries, but those countries were mostly longtime, stable allies of Ankara.

The Police Academy report also says FETÖ often cooperates with other countries, adding it was obvious that superpowers like the United States openly cooperated with the terrorist group. FETÖ runs a large network of companies and schools and is believed to control business interests worth billions of dollars. The report also points out that Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were favourable countries for FETÖ due to their support to the terrorist group.

"FETÖ is a stateless group and can form alliances with anyone. They are part of anti-Turkey plans with foreign intelligence agencies," the report adds. The terrorist group has also been influential in African countries, but the report says Turkey's diplomatic efforts restricted FETÖ's movement in those countries where the group is increasingly being viewed as an internal security threat. In Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and the Caucasian region, the terrorist group worked for the interests of the United States, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the report says, citing a 2002 investigation by Russian intelligence that found out FETÖ schools were used in intelligence activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

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