The United States’ highest law-making power still does not understand the real nature of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which will continue to be a source of tension between allies Ankara and Washington, Robert Amsterdam of the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP stated Monday in a letter.
Amsterdam was answering a letter written by a group of U.S. senators on Feb. 9 urging newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden to put pressure on Turkey to stop the country’s fight against terrorist organizations and its “belligerent and combative” foreign policy.
The letter, which was written by Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Marco Rubio, claimed that the Turkish government has been seeking to silence so-called critics like NBA player Enes Kanter, who is known as Gülen's "adopted son."
Saying that the senators’ letter contains “worrying mischaracterizations of a group of individuals accused of involvement in the 2016 attempted coup,” Amsterdam wrote that the senators presented these suspects as victims of persecution and advocates of human rights, “when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.”
He reiterated that FETÖ engaged in unlawful and abusive conduct in the U.S., saying that the terrorist group has created “one of the country's largest networks of charter schools as well as establishing relevant businesses in the charter industry, including construction companies, cafeteria vendors, charter management companies and real estate companies.”
Amsterdam also pointed out that FETÖ members abuse the H-1B visa program, “which they use to bring members of the movement into the country, posing as teachers and administrators.”
He said that these charter schools use taxpayer funds, costing from $3,000 (TL 35,000) to $5000 per application, “to recruit Gülen’s followers from Turkey (often unqualified), to teach U.S. students in classes like English and gym.”
The lawyer further reiterated that in 2020, the FETÖ charter network in Oklahoma was subject to a criminal investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for misuse of data belonging to over 100,000 children between the ages of 10 and 12.
“In November of 2020, another network of these schools settled a six-year investigation with the Department of Justice for $4.5 million after improperly using federal funds for shell companies.”
FETÖ has a considerable presence internationally, particularly in the U.S., including private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group. The U.S. is home to a large community of Gülenists, including group leader Fetullah Gülen. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in a secluded compound in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999. The U.S. is the target of most extradition requests. Turkey has sent seven extradition requests for Gülen to Washington but has seen little progress.
The U.S.’ refusal to hand over Gülen remains one of the main sources of friction between Ankara and Washington along with the issues of the S-400 missile system and U.S. support for the PKK’s Syrian wing, the YPG.
Over 173 charter schools that enroll over 85,000 students in 26 states continue to operate in the U.S.
He added that FETÖ is “prolific in its influence operations and lobbying – though it is rarely done with transparency,” and stated that in 2018, there was a federal indictment against a prominent Gülen lieutenant named Kemal Öksüz, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about illegally funding luxury foreign travel junkets for U.S. politicians.
Underlining that relations between Turkey and the U.S. are also bound by NATO, Amsterdam said that Ankara is a country that represents one of the few allies Washington has in the most dangerous region in the world.
“As the United States has just recently suffered through the trauma of an attempted insurrection, there should be an opportunity for mutual understanding,” he said, stressing that everyone can have different opinions but that facts remain the same.
Amsterdam stated that he hoped the U.S. Senate would reevaluate its position on FETÖ and “further educate themselves on the harm and danger they pose to Turkish and American people.”
The terrorist group, which disguised itself as a charity movement with religious undertones for years, sought to seize power in 2013 with an investigation into people close to the government under the guise of a graft probe. Three years later, it tried to topple the government again with its military infiltrators. The coup attempt in 2016 was ultimately foiled and was followed by a state of emergency. Tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested following the coup attempt.
Recently, a body of Turkish lawmakers condemned the letter, saying that it does not suit the strategic alliance between the two countries.
The Turkey-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group criticized the letter, which they said “targets Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies and contains irresponsible, baseless allegations that contradict the strategic partnership between the two countries under the roof of NATO.”
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