US Consulate phone called coup mastermind after coup, judicial sources say

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published
Adil Öksüz pictured in file photo
Adil Öksüz pictured in file photo

The U.S. embassy confirmed that its Istanbul consulate denied a visa for Adil Öksüz, the alleged mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt blamed on FETÖ, and placed a call to the suspect ‘to inform him’ while he was on the run but questions remain over whether putsch supporters fleeing Turkey were granted access to the U.S.

The U.S. embassy confirmed that its Istanbul consulate placed a call to Adil Öksüz, the fugitive mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt blamed on the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), saying it was to inform him of a "visa cancellation." A statement by the embassy in response to media reports about contact between the consulate and Öksüz said they denied the visa after authorities informed them Öksüz was a fugitive.

Still, it remains unclear whether the United States is routinely denying visas to FETÖ members with arrest warrants as several Gülenists wanted by Turkey have been spotted in the United States. Judiciary sources confirmed yesterday that Adil Öksüz, a frequent traveler to the United States, was contacted by a mobile number registered with the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul days after his controversial release in Turkey.

A written statement by the United States Embassy in Ankara acknowledged the call but denied it was "suspicious." "As a direct result of close U.S.-Turkish law enforcement cooperation, a call from the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul to a phone belonging to Adil Öksüz on July 21, 2016 did occur.

On that day, the Turkish National Police called the U.S. Mission in Turkey to request our assistance in preventing Adil Öksüz from fleeing Turkey. We then revoked his U.S. visa and, as required by U.S. law, tried to call him to inform him of the cancellation. Far from being suspicious, the call from the Consulate General illustrates the close U.S.-Turkish law enforcement cooperation following the coup attempt."

Consulate officials said it was in line with U.S. laws to place calls to visa applicants to inform them of the rejection of a visa.U.S. officials speaking to Daily Sabah did not say whether the same ban was applied to other FETÖ suspects who are at large. Ekrem Dumanlı, who runs a FETÖ-linked newspaper with an arrest warrant, was spotted in New Jersey after the coup attempt though it is not known whether he fled there before or after the coup.

The United States has always been a favorite destination for members of FETÖ, even long before they were designated as a terrorist group. Fetullah Gülen himself resides in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, a small town where his group owns a posh retreat. Adil Öksüz repeatedly visited Gülen and according to prosecutors had Gülen's approval for his plan to topple the government with a military coup. Evidence shows Öksüz, otherwise a theology lecturer who has never been on trips abroad for business purposes, has flown to the Unites States for years, sometimes aboard the same flight with other FETÖ members though he acted discreetly to avoid detection.

Judiciary sources speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) yesterday confirmed a journalist's earlier claim that Adil Öksüz was contacted by a mobile phone number registered with the United States consulate in Istanbul. The source from the Chief Prosecutor's Office in the capital Ankara that handles a coup case related to Öksüz, told AA that Öksüz's cellphone received the call at 10:22 a.m. on July 21. More details regarding the call will likely be revealed in the indictment against Öksüz and other coup plotters expected to be announced today.

Eight months after the coup attempt, Öksüz, a theology lecturer who turned out to be a senior figure in FETÖ, remains at large while the inquiry into his controversial release implicates police intelligence officials and troops according to media reports.

Öksüz was caught as he was fleeing a military base in the capital Ankara and released two days later by judges. A manhunt was launched after he disappeared following his release.

He is accused of masterminding the putsch bid in his capacity as terror cult's point man for its infiltrators in the army.

Turkey placed Öksüz in the "red category" of the most wanted terror suspects, offering up to TL 4 million ($1.1 million) for tip-offs to help his capture and he is believed to have fled abroad as nationwide searches have failed to locate him.

Prosecutors accuse him of orchestrating the meetings of top generals in an Ankara villa where they planned the coup plot, based on the testimony of secret witnesses who were also present at the meetings. He faces life imprisonment and a number of prison terms for the coup attempt as well as membership of a terrorist group. Hakan Biniş, another "civilian" FETÖ figure was with Öksüz in the villa during the coup talks, witnesses claimed, along with top generals captured following the coup attempt.

On July 16, he was found at Akıncı Air Base where pro-coup troops commanded the coup attempt and was then taken into custody, only to be released two days later by judges citing "lack of evidence." He has claimed he was near the base to "look for a piece of land he planned to buy," and gave two addresses as his residence during his stay in Ankara after he arrived from the northwestern city of Sakarya where he teaches. The two addresses were found to be houses that have been empty for some time and the evidence revealed after his release showed Öksüz never hired a taxi to take him to an area near the base as he claimed in his first testimony.

Unanswered questions

Why was Adil Öksüz's visa cancelled?

Were other FETÖ-linked suspects' visas cancelled?

How many coup plotters' visas were cancelled?

Are there other FETÖ members in U.S. with cancelled visas?

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