As FETÖ's attacks against Turkey took on a new level with the bloody July 15 failed coup attempt in 2016, the government has vowed to eliminate the terror network from all of its institutions and bring them to justice
Turkey experienced one of its most extraordinary, heinous and vicious nights on July 15, 2016, with an attempted coup by a small faction within the Turkish military affiliated to the United States-based Fethullah Gülen, the leader of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Following the bloody putsch attempt, the response by the government — like that of many other European countries after facing terrorist attacks — declared a three-month state of emergency and demanded that one of its closest allies, the U.S., extradite Gülen to Turkey in efforts to bring him to face a fair trial in the Turkish criminal court system. Turkey's fight against FETÖ did not begin with the July 15 coup attempt; the government's efforts against the controversial and rather obscure terror movement began after the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations launched by Gülenist prosecutors with aims to topple the democratically elected government.
'So-called Dec. 17–25 cases classified as judicial coup attempt'
On Dec. 17–25, 2013, in what is described as a judicial coup attempt by a well-known former Gülenists figure, Hüseyin Gülerce, the movement believed it was strong enough to take on the democratically elected government, launching an anti-corruption operation through its members in the judiciary and police to topple the government. However, the former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ announced that the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations were not related to corruption probe investigations as claimed by supporters of FETÖ, but rather coup attempts that aimed to overthrow the government. As an immediate response to prevent the attempt, the government began a comprehensive investigation to tackle the danger posed by FETÖ's judicial, security, media, business and education arms. Throughout 2014 and 2015, the government devoted efforts to eliminate FETÖ affiliates from both the judiciary and security institutions. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) also launched an investigation into Gülenist judges and prosecutors in April 2015.As part of the ongoing investigations against FETÖ, the HSYK began an inquiry into 54 judges and prosecutors accused of authorizing and accepting an illegal wiretap of thousands of people. The chief investigator of the inquiry at the time requested that 32 judges and 22 prosecutors be dismissed from their positions. A preliminary inquiry into the Selam-Tevhid case was further initiated by the HSYK council, as the case involved prominent figures, ranging from politicians to journalists, illegally wiretapped under the guise of an inquiry into the eponymous, nonexistent terrorist organization. In fact, shortly prior to the July 15 coup attempt in March 2016, the Istanbul prosecutor's office drafted a 3,149-page indictment on Gülenist suspects for political and military espionage, management or membership of a terror organization, conspiracy to oust the government, revealing confidential information, invasion of privacy, fabricating crimes, illegal acquisition of evidence, hiding and modifying evidence, forgery of official documents and abuse of duty.
Meanwhile with investigations into FETÖ continuing, the annual Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) on Aug. 1 began to discuss matters regarding military personnel of rank, including superannuation and the promotion of generals, with a view to take Turkey's fight against FETÖ into the military establishment, and over 1,000 alleged Gülenist military personnel were expected to be dismissed from duty. Commenting on the incidents on the night of July 15, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at Atatürk airport that "It is not a coincidence that they did this before the YAŞ meeting."
President Erdoğan immediately announced a nationwide three-month state of emergency after the failed coup that killed 246 people and injured over 1,500 others. In the scope of its determined combat against FETÖ, the government dismissed thousands of FETÖ-affiliated people from public offices through statutory decrees. In late November 2016, a total of 15,653 Turkish state employees were dismissed for alleged links to illegal organizations including FETÖ.
In support of Turkey's efforts, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also declared FETÖ a terror group while many of Gülen's schools abroad faced closure. The Maarif Foundation is all set to take over the administration and control the Fethullah Gülen Pakturk schools and colleges in Pakistan after the successful conclusion of diplomatic and backdoor channel discussions between Ankara and Islamabad. The Maarif Foundation named after an Ottoman Turkish word for education, which comes from the Arabic word for knowledge or wisdom, was founded by the National Education Ministry to establish schools around the world that will serve as alternatives to schools run by affiliates of FETÖ.
'International fight agaınst FETÖ a crucial necessity'
An international fight against FETÖ became an obvious necessity following the assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov. Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "I was at first doubtful when I was told that the downing of the Russian jet was committed without the knowledge of Turkish authorities. But after the murder of Andrey Karlov, I was persuaded. Now, I think, anything is possible. Such destructive forces have really infiltrated state institutions."
Thus, 2017 is expected to be a year in which Turkey continues its international fight against terror organizations, with a special focus on FETÖ abroad. With Ankara falling out with the Obama administration over several issues, such as who to side with in the Middle East and cracking down on the presence of FETÖ in the U.S., Ankara now expects the Trump administration to work closely with Turkey toward Gülen's detention and his ultimate extradition. Gülen's extradition process may very likely be expedited after Trump comes to power on Jan. 20. But until then, the trials that began in the last week of 2016 at a courthouse inside the massive prison complex in Istanbul's Silivri district will also continue into 2017 as the first of several trials pertaining to the coup attempt quelled by civilians, police and anti-coup troops.