Gülenist imams find sanctuaries around the world

Published 21.08.2016 23:27
Updated 22.08.2016 08:52
Leader of the Gülenist terror-cult, Fetullah Gülen
Leader of the Gülenist terror-cult, Fetullah Gülen

Over the last few years, hundreds of FETÖ members fled abroad after being informed by moles within the police and judiciary of impending arrest. Some of the most senior FETÖ operatives have found sanctuary in surprising places

Taking their cue from fugitive Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fethullah Gülen, who is residing in Pennsyvania, U.S., his disciples are known to flee at the first sign of trouble. Having infiltrated key state institutions, including the judiciary, military and Police Department, many FETÖ moles have fled to the unlikeliest places over the years in order not to face justice. Below are the latest known locations where these fugitives according to intelligence gathered.

According to prosecutors' and court reports, there are some 4,000 fugitive FETÖ members who have fled overseas to escape arrest and trial. Most FETÖ members are state servants with supposedly tight budgets, but once one considers the estimated minimum $150 billion in FETÖ wealth, questions over how they can afford to spend months and even years abroad is answered.

Gülen was the first to flee abroad, in March 21, 1999, to escape prosecution on charges of trying to topple the government.


With their leader safely housed in an expansive compound for the past 16 years in Pennsylvania, it is not surprising that most fugitives prefer to make their way to the country.

The imam of the Police Department, Osman Hilmi Özdil, known within FETÖ by the alias Ömer from Kozan, is known to have been at the Istanbul offices of Zaman daily a day before the judicial coup attempt on Dec. 17, 2013. According to records, he left Turkey on Feb. 5, 2014 and at one time was seen in Thailand. He is now believed to have made his way to Europe. The FETÖ imam of the Air Force, Adil Öksüz, has been missing since his release the day after the July 15 coup attempt. The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) imam Murat Karabulut, with the alias of Sinan, left the country on Feb 4, 2014 and was last seen in South Africa. The imam of the judiciary, Ahmet Can, left on Feb. 21, 2014 for the U.S.


Senior FETÖ members within the media have eventually made their way to the U.S. Tuncay Opçin went to the U.S. on March 28, 2015, while Yavuz Arslan did the same on June 6, 2014. Emre Uslu first went to Belgium on March 1, 2014, before making the obligatory transatlantic trip. Önder Aytaç, one of the sharpest pens at FETÖ's service, went to the U.K. on Nov. 17, 2014, and later moving on to the U.S.

Fuat Avni, a group of FETÖ members who have waged a campaign of disinformation under this moniker on Twitter, is headed by Aydğan Vatandaş, who has been residing in the U.S. for several years.


Zekeriya Öz, a former prosecutor who had become infamous for his judicial attacks on the military and the government, fled abroad on Aug. 10, 2015 after he was informed the police was closing in. He asked for asylum from Germany, believed to be using the highly classified information on Turkey as leverage. Celal Kara, the prosecutor who led the judicial coup attempt on Dec. 17, 2013, fled abroad with Öz, and also is seeking political asylum from Germany.


One of the unlikeliest places where FETÖ members flee is Papua New Guinea. The country hosts FETÖ dormitories where fugitive FETÖ members can find safety. The former Adana imam, as the provincial or institutional heads of the criminal cult are called, Ömer Ekinci is there. Some of those who have recently gone AWOL are temporarily housed in the Lake Issik Sebat Girls' High School in Kyrgyzstan and other FETÖ centers across the country. The cult is investigating a more permanent accommodation for the latest batch of fugitives, who also include some senior military and civilian officials who used to work for Turkey's NATO offices. One, Rear Admiral Mustafa Zeki Uğurlu, has already asked for asylum from the U.S.


South Africa is one surprise haven for FETÖ members. According to intelligence reports, senior FETÖ members prefer the U.S., Canada, Germany and Belgium, all of which have a welcoming attitude toward the terrorist group. South Africa, which does not have an extradition treaty with Turkey, completes the top five destinations for fleeing FETÖ members. Still, most of the countries in Central Asia, Japan, Australia and almost all African counties, where the group has a presence, are favored destinations. The global reach of this criminal cult becomes apparent when one considers the fact that apart from Antarctica, there is almost nowhere FETÖ members are not welcome.


Several imams responsible for the cult's activities on a provincial basis have fled all around the world. While several are known to have made it to the U.S., others can be found in Spain, the U.K., Belgium, Georgia, Serbia and many others.

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