The Turkish Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association (MÜSİAD) was recently targeted by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in a smear campaign against the South Africa head of the association, Ebubekir Salim, in an attempt to have him arrested.
First, a legal lawsuit was filed in Pretoria, not in Johannesburg that is the subject of the case, with information and documents that have been gathered illegally, sources, who wished to remain anonymous, said. Then, Salim's assets were frozen and his authority in his firms was dispossessed. Only a short period after the decision was made, the issue was leaked to the press and a smearing campaign kicked off, of which Gülenists in the country have been a big part of.
The documents used in the case have allegedly been seized from employees working at Salim's firm by way of threats and coercion. It is reported that the footage of employees stealing documents from their own firm exists.
Also on May 1, an arrest warrant was issued for Salim even though the date is an official holiday. On the same day and the day after, police stormed Salim's offices and the offices of his lawyers and seized documents.
Due to the absurdity of the case, Salim filed a lawsuit on May 4. The court ruled that all previous decisions be withdrawn and the arrest warrant on Salim be withheld. Even though MÜSİAD and Salim have succeeded in thwarting FETÖ's plot in South Africa that targeted Turkish businessmen in the country and Turkey's image, the threat for the future remains.
Over the course of the court decisions and legal proceedings, FETÖ militants took to social media to defame the association and the Turkish businessmen.
On Twitter, for example, FETÖ-linked accounts spread defamation and propaganda.
"Erdoğan uses all means to expand his political agenda through different institutions. MUSIAD is the one which tries to manipulate businesspeople in South Africa, especially Muslim businesspeople and NGOs," said one FETÖ-linked account with the handle Ahmet Timol.
"Talented Mr Salim. His role model is Tayyip Erdoğan," said another FETÖ account.
Also, another FETÖ account threatened both Turkish businesspeople and Turkey's Ambassador to South Africa Elif Çomoğlu Ülgen.
"I am looking forward to the day I will hopefully be visiting you corrupt minded criminals in jail," the user with the handle @safinazworks said, posting photos of Salim and Ülgen.
Furthermore, other Turkish institutions have been portrayed as possible future targets.
"South African authorities must be careful about the activities of Erdoğan affiliated institutions, like the Yunus Emre Foundation, Maarif Foundation, MÜSİAD and TİKA," Ahmet Timol said, mentioning South African authorities in the tweet.
South Africa is known for being one of the most significant strongholds for fleeing FETÖ terrorists. The country also stood out previously as a possible destination for FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen if the United States decided to extradite him where he lives in Pennsylvania.
Speaking to Turkish media in the wake of the incident, Turkish Ambassador to South Africa Ülgen said, "South Africa is one of the countries where FETÖ is the strongest. But they will also see that they will never be able to reach anything with this smear campaign. We have been in regular dialogue with the South African authorities since July 15, 2016 - both in terms of political channels and legal cooperation. They started a serious smear campaign using the press because they knew we were fighting seriously with FETÖ."
Stressing that the campaign to smear Turkish businessmen has been ongoing for a while, the ambassador said, "By influencing a group of press members, they have been campaigning about some of our business partners. But they cannot hide the facts. We are sharing our intelligence with the South African authorities in the framework of the law. Our cooperation continues."