The leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), Fetullah Gülen, who perpetrated the July 15 coup attempt last year, acknowledged for the first time that he personally knows Adil Öksüz, the fugitive who organized the coup plot with the group's infiltrators in the army. Speaking to France 24, Gülen, who currently resides in the United States, said Öksüz was once a member of a "study circle" in his movement. Gülenists view themselves as members of the "Hizmet movement" and claim to work for charity and education. Evidence gathered by prosecutors show otherwise: Gülen, for decades, worked to plant his followers in law enforcement, the judiciary and the army with the ultimate aim to seize power.
"Adil Öksüz, at one time, I think when he was studying at school, he became part of our study circle," Gülen told France 24, adding that this was about 30 years ago. He also acknowledged that Öksüz came to his Pennsylvania compound before last year's coup attempt on one of his more recent visits. However, he downplayed the importance of his relations to Öksüz, claiming he was merely one of hundreds of visitors to the compound.
Öksüz, originally a theology lecturer who worked at a university in the city of Sakarya near Istanbul, was among men in civilian clothes captured near a military base used as a command center of putschists in the capital Ankara on July 15, 2016. He was released hours later in a controversial ruling that was apparently based on Öksüz's defense that he was "near the base to look for a piece of land to buy." It was found, based on testimonies of eyewitnesses, that Öksüz was actually a planner of the coup with FETÖ's infiltrators in the military and chaired secret meetings in an Ankara villa with pro-coup generals linked to FETÖ days before soldiers moved to seize power. Prosecutors say Öksüz later traveled to the United States and received approval from Gülen for the coup that killed 250 people resisting the putschists.
Prosecutors in Ankara recently concluded an indictment of 28 people accused of aiding in the release of Öksüz. Thirteen soldiers, 14 national police personnel, including police officers and an adviser at the Prime Ministry are among the defendants implicated in the release of Öksüz.
Öksüz was first released from judicial control by Judge Köksal Çelik. A prosecutor objected to the ruling, but Judge Çetin Sönmez, who took over the case, overruled the objection, citing a lack of evidence against Öksüz. Sönmez later confessed his links to FETÖ during his recent detention. Öksüz has remained at large since July 18 with no leads regarding his whereabouts after he was last seen in his hometown in northwestern Turkey.
Turkey has placed Öksüz in the "red category" of the country's most wanted terror suspects, offering up to TL 4 million ($1.1 million) for tips that lead to his capture. He is believed to have fled abroad as nationwide searches have failed to locate him.
Prosecutors have accused him of orchestrating meetings of top generals in an Ankara villa where they planned the coup based on the testimony of secret witnesses who were also present during the meetings. He faces life imprisonment and a number of additional prison terms for the coup attempt as well as for his membership in a terrorist group. Witnesses say that Hakan Biniş, another civilian FETÖ figure, was with Öksüz in the villa during the coup talks along with top generals captured following the coup attempt.
Öksüz 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 taught. The two addresses were found to be houses that have been empty for some time, and evidence revealed after his release that Öksüz never hired a taxi to take him to an area near the base as he had claimed in his initial testimony.
Criminal investigators also revealed he had frequently traveled to the United States where Gülen and other senior figures of the terrorist group reside, and he was in the company of military officers involved in the coup attempt during his flights. In addition, Öksüz had relatives running companies linked to FETÖ.
Gülen and Öksüz are being tried in coup cases that saw the detention and arrests of hundreds of military officers linked to FETÖ. Gülen, a former preacher who has been living in Pennsylvania for years, denies the charges. He and Öksüz face multiple life terms for their role in the coup bid that came three years after FETÖ infiltrators in the judiciary and law enforcement tried two more unsuccessful coup attempts.