The Disappearing Imam: Gulen and Uncovering the Mysteries of Turkey’s Coup Operation

August 3, 2017

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Editor’s Note: The author of this essay is a Turkey-based journalist using a pseudonym. Given the dangerous and risk-laden climate for Westerners in Turkey writing about subjects as sensitive as who was truly responsible for last summer’s coup attempt, the author meets our high standard for use of a pen name.

Six weeks after last summer’s failed Turkish coup attempt, authorities issued a state of emergency decree giving Col. Muharrem Köse a new job at the General Staff Headquarters.

This was unexpected, because Köse – the former head of military legal affairs at the same headquarters –  had been removed from duty in February that year in relation to an alleged conspiracy to assassinate one of Turkey’s deputy prime ministers. When he got his new job, he was sitting in jail and was the official number one suspect behind the coup attempt.

Presumably he wasn’t able to even visit his new office, but it didn’t matter: It wouldn’t be a week before he was fired again in a purge. However, amidst all the confusion, authorities had changed their minds and no longer believed the coup attempt had not been controlled from within the General Staff Headquarters, where Köse had been on duty before his arrest, but from Akıncı Air Base, an Air Force base on the semi-rural outskirts of Ankara.

From the wreckage of the government’s original narrative emerged a claim that the coup attempt was commanded by a civilian—Adil Öksüz, a man of God who constituted a direct link between the Turkish Air Force and Fethullah Gülen, a charismatic preacher exiled in the United States who sat atop a global movement. Moreover, this civilian had not only convinced a judge to set him free in the aftermath of the coup attempt, but had seemingly then disappeared from the face of the earth.

A year on from the coup, the evidence for Öksüz as the coup’s mastermind is also beginning to look much weaker. But without the mystery of what Öksüz’s role actually was being solved, it will be very difficult for Turkey to convince objective outside observers that Gülenists were the top-down orchestrators of the coup rather than simply being enthusiastic participants in a common endeavor.

The First Number One Suspect

In the immediate aftermath of Turkey’s failed coup attempt last summer, authorities officially identified a Col. Muharrem Köse as the number one suspect.

A list of who would fill the top 400 positions in the aftermath of the coup attempt was allegedly found in Köse’s pocket. Once it reached the press, news channels chattered about the backgrounds and personalities of those who might well have been ruling the country had things gone differently on July 15. The press said that the 37 officers marked off from the rest had been the “Peace at Home Committee”: the band of officers who were to make up the ruling junta if the coup were successful.

The press had labeled him the main man working inside the military apparatus on behalf of Fethullah Gülen—an influential imam self-exiled in Pennsylvania whose network of influence stretched throughout the Turkish state and security forces. Moreover, Köse had been closely associated with legal cases seen as Gülenist conspiracies, and openly admitted that he had been at the General Staff Headquarters on the night of the coup, while military sources anonymously leaked the names of his co-conspirators to state news service Anadolu Agency.

On July 19, 2016, four days after the coup attempt, Köse was formally arrested by a court and admitted to participating, though insisted he had nothing to do with the Gülen movement, which its adherents call Hizmet, and had not known that the operation was going to happen. The headlines announced that the leading coup plotter was being brought to justice.

And then the trail ran cold.

The Imam Escapes

At a quarter to ten on the morning after the coup attempt began, a group of men – one civilian and seven soldiers – in various states of disarray were fleeing from a bombed-out airbase through a wheat field on the outskirts of Ankara when a shepherd spotted them and alerted authorities. Once arrested, the civilian – theology lecturer Adil Öksüz – reportedly tried to dispose of a mobile internet connection device he had on him in the bathroom of the gendarmerie. This surprised his captors so much that they kept him there while all the soldiers were sent to Ankara’s anti-terror police department.

A legal advisor to the prime ministry, Ali İhsan Sarıkoca, heard that Öksüz had been among the coup plotters and drove out to meet him in custody. According to Sarıkoca’s court statement, he made sure that the gendarmes were aware that their captive was Fethullah Gülen’s “air force imam,” the crucial link between Gülen himself and his disciples in the air force. The gendarme who questioned Öksüz also became suspicious and phoned a friend in police intelligence, who told him that Öksüz was believed to be one of Gülen’s “imams.” He passed this information onto his superior, who both informed Ankara police intelligence and the police superintendent in charge of combatting the Gülen movement.

That night, Öksüz was sent to a local district court together with 97 low-ranking soldiers rather than to Ankara Court with the top suspects. Öksüz told the judge that he had been looking to buy farmland at a village nearby the air base, and that he had stayed at his uncle’s house in Keçiören the night before getting a taxi there. However, not only were the properties at the addresses he gave found to be abandoned, but no taxi driver in the vicinity would substantiate his story. The traffic cameras had last registered his car driving into Ankara on June 15—an entire month before the coup attempt—and the vehicle cannot have been in Ankara because it was found in his father-in-law’s garage in Sakarya after he disappeared.

As it was clear he was a civilian rather than a soldier, the judge ruled that he could go. The prosecutor appealed the decision, but three hours later, when Öksüz again took the stand, he had no evidence that could convince the judge to do more than put him under judicial control. At 06:35 on July 18, while thousands of others remained under arrest, Adil Öksüz left the courthouse and began his startling disappearing act.

The Gülen Movement and the Military

Adil Öksüz was a Gülenist or, at the very least, lived his life surrounded by people from the Gülen movement, a transnational religious organization best known for its extensive education network, its charitable activities, and its habit of encouraging nepotism inside the Turkish police, judiciary, army, and civil service—long actively helped along by the AK Party government, which saw the movement as an antidote to the secularists who despised and feared them.

The Gülen movement was known for its obsession with surveillance. Ahmet Şık, an investigative journalist who has written two books on the Gülen movement, suggests the first significant cohort was recruited into the police force between 1987 and 1991, and that their top targets were the intelligence and human resources sections. In more recent years, listening devices linked to the movement were found in then-Prime Minister Erdogan’s office. It was even rumored that Gülen had had bugs planted in the houses of some of his own prominent followers as insurance against betrayal. Once inside police intelligence, the movement apparently made wide use of the extensive database of recorded telephone calls, even decrypting encrypted calls made by the prime minister.

Members of the movement later used this intelligence to great effect, spinning it into compelling narratives that formed the groundwork for two major judicial investigations against their and the AK Party’s common enemies—the first, Ergenekon, largely directed against secular bastions of the state and security forces, while the second, Balyoz, sought to remove all the figures who had stopped Gülenists advancing inside the military.

There remained just one fortress the group were never able to successfully penetrate—the national intelligence agency. Its head, Hakan Fidan, had been involved in secret talks with the PKK, a Kurdish separatist movement designated as a terrorist organization, at Oslo in 2011. In February 2012, a prosecutor linked to the Gülen movement issued a subpoena for Fidan to testify about the talks. Erdogan, however, ordered Fidan not to go, quickly passing a law to make it impossible for the courts to touch any members of the intelligence services without prime ministerial approval. With this event, Erdogan and the AK Party belatedly began to realize that the Gülenists were serious contenders for power, and from that moment on it was clear that a fight was in the offing.

The AK Party gradually began to push the Gülenists out into the cold. This effort culminated in a plan to outlaw the university exam cram schools (dershanes) that were both a crucial source of income for the movement and a key recruitment tool. The month after the bill was passed, the Gülenists struck back, attempting the prosecution of key figures around Erdogan for corruption in a multi-part case that pointed directly at almost all of his inner circle, including family members, and thus implicitly to Erdogan himself. They also began leaking most of the evidence, including private phone calls, that they had quietly accumulated.

As a result, the government made it its duty to make life hell for movement members. The term “FETÖ” (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) became official jargon for the movement. Ordinary members came under increasing pressure and there were desperate attempts to shift movement members out of critical positions in the police, judiciary, and other state institutions. The Gülenists lost their assets – media organizations, a bank, and many companies, including major companies underlying the Turkish economy. Most of the movement’s senior figures fled Turkey.

But while the group was being torn apart in civil society, it found surprisingly fertile ground in the Turkish armed forces. The secularist generals who had fallen victim to the Balyoz case were now out of the way, but there remained a broad feeling that the strength of Turkish military culture effectively insulated the institution against infiltration—much less by a religious faction. Col. Ahmet Zeki Üçok, one of the officers fired in Balyoz, had long been investigating the movement’s influence inside the military and provided the government, many prosecutors, and the military head brass with a long list of adherents in the services in which he had trusted contacts—all except the Air Force. But Turkey’s top generals, plus the prime minister and defense minister, continued to promote figures they knew to be associated with the Gülen movement every single year until the coup attempt happened. Astonishingly, they also continued to allow names on Üçok’s list of Gülenists to head the human resources departments at the General Staff, the Army, and the Gendarmerie.

Evidence Against Öksüz

Adil Öksüz is now generally agreed to have been the Gülen movement’s Air Force “imam,” meaning that he was the contact person between those belonging to the movement inside the Turkish Air Force and the movement’s imams in other institutions. While in the civilian world, especially in the times before the crackdown on Gülenists began, group members would often feel comfortably open about their ties with their movement inside the military they did not share this affiliation with anyone.

The Gülenists had plenty of warning that they were to be pushed off their beachhead in the military during the round of military retirements at the Supreme Military Council of August 1 to 4, 2016. In March, an article on the news website OdaTV suggested that the expulsion of Gülenist officers might even be brought forward in order to prevent them being able to launch a coup attempt. By July, it was being made explicit in the Turkish media that there would be a major purge of Gülenists at the start of August. The AK Party’s flagship paper Sabah wrote three days before the coup attempt that “FETÖ’s business ends at the Supreme Military Council.” Gülenists with important positions within the military’s human resources departments would no doubt have been able to confirm this.

Despite holding a minor academic position at an unremarkable university, Öksüz clocked up air miles at a serious rate, being a regular visitor to Europe and the United States and even taking a fact-finding trip to South Africa according to the coup indictment. It also indicates that he visited the United Kingdom in December 2015 and the United States for three days in March 2016, five days in June, and three days in July, arriving back in Turkey just two days before the coup attempt began. It is unknown where in the United States he went. According to the indictment, he had financial dealings with U.S.-based companies linked to the movement and he may well have been fulfilling some contract. But we must also consider the likelihood that he went to Pennsylvania to visit Fethullah Gülen himself or an intermediary – despite Gülen claiming Öksüz had been to the compound only “a few years ago.”

His trips sometimes coincided with travel by some of the other four civilian Gülenists found at Akıncı Air Base that night—Kemal Batmaz, the former CEO of publishing giant Kaynak Holding; Nurettin Oruç, a film producer accused in the press of being the group’s Gendarmerie imam; Harun Biniş, an out-of-work electronic engineer; and Hakan Çiçek, the owner of a chain of schools and allegedly the Land Forces imam—although all four told the court they had never met Öksüz. Between the November 2015 elections and the military coup attempt, the indictment says, Öksüz also drove 12 times into Kazan, the district of Ankara province in which Akıncı Air Base is based.

An anonymous witness, going under the pseudonym Şapka (English for “Hat”), later said that Öksüz had hosted planning meetings in a villa in Ankara’s suburban Konutkent development throughout the long Eid holiday of July 2016. Öksüz himself presided over the meetings, Şapka says, which were attended by a small group of key coup plotters. However, there are reasons to doubt this account. Aside from the question of how he managed to become a fly on the wall during such high-level conspiratorial proceedings, as Gareth Jenkins has noted, Şapka simply appears to be repeating speculation from the press at the time and nothing more. Another anonymous witness, Kuzgun (Raven) later repeated the same claims adding almost nothing of note, while one senior officer told the coup commission that he had heard second-hand that these meetings had happened, but did not say when he heard it. During the Izmir branch of the coup trials, two naval officers would later claim (or admit) to being Şapka and Kuzgun, and applied for reduced sentences on that basis. This description of the planning process was nonetheless to become absolutely crucial to the government’s narrative about how the coup occurred, and to the coup trial itself.

The Night of the Attempt

None of the dozens of witnesses who were on Akıncı Air Base that night had any problem with pinning responsibility on one another for the coup and yet, amongst this orgy of mutual incrimination, the number one suspect emerges almost entirely unscathed.

In fact, only three officers even say they believe they saw Öksüz at any point in the night. Twenty-four others explicitly mentioned not having seen him at the base, while the remaining defendants – largely security guards and ordinary pilots – made no mention of him. This is despite the government and media already promoting the idea that Öksüz was the number one coup suspect by the time many of them came to give some of their testimony.

Nothing in the indictment or witness testimony tells us when Adil Öksüz arrived at Akıncılar Air Base on the night of the coup attempt, although we do know that a large number of soldiers – plus fellow Gülenist Hakan Çiçek – arrived at the base in civilian clothing between 18:00 and 20:00 under the supervision of Col. Ahmet Özçetin, the base’s operations commander, who according to the indictment had informed his fellow officers he was going to have a party.

Many subsequently changed into uniform, but some did not. Some soldiers came to the base in civilian clothes because they had been told there was a social function that evening. Others were hastily flown in from Istanbul before they had the chance to put on their uniforms. Some wore civilian clothes for their own safety, and there were also many retired soldiers in civilian clothing on the base that day as well. Even some of the most senior generals involved in the coup spent some of the night of July 15 in civilian clothes, and at times, given the number of people on the base from different military backgrounds, this even lead to confusion among the airmen as to who they had the right to take orders from or give orders to. Maj. Ali Karabulut, a pilot on the base that night, put it in his testimony, “I saw individuals in civilian clothes that evening, but were they police, soldiers, or normal ordinary citizens? I don’t know.”

At unstated times during the night, there are two reported sightings of Öksüz at the base, and both times he was surrounded by civilians. Base Commander Gen. Hakan Evrim recalled:

When I went to the mess area of the 143rd fleet there were around 30 individuals in civilian clothing. They had laptops and iPads in their hands. If I’m not wrong, the television was also on. As far as I’m aware, they were watching the news […] I didn’t recognize Adil Öksüz from before […] When I saw Adil Öksüz he was talking with those around him, but I do not know what they were talking about. Just, as I say, there were a lot of people in civilian clothes and it did not look like a Turkish Armed Forces operational headquarters.

Lt. Müslim Macit, who had bombed the crowds outside the presidential palace that night, testified:

As far as I remember, I saw someone who looked like Adil Öksüz… [Cpt.] Kaygusuz told me Adil Öksüz was there […] He was speaking on his phone. There were civilians around him.

The first hint that we get that Öksüz might be of any importance was when he is apparently seen by Col. Ugur Kapan, an Army helicopter pilot, conferring with senior officers at 06:30 on the morning after the coup attempt. By this time, it was clear that only desperate measures had a chance of saving the operation, which was being beat back across the country by a combination of forces loyal to the government and street demonstrators. Shortly after this time, according to the testimony of Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar (whom the coup plotters had been trying to persuade to defect all night) Gen. Evrim offered to put Akar into direct contact with “our thought leader”—whom Akar believed was Fethullah Gülen. But this odd terminology is not one of the usual epithets used by movement members. Evrim denied this claim in his testimony, saying that he had offered to help Akar to “phone people such as Abdullah Gül and Ahmet Davutoglu, the opposition, civil society organizations and thought leaders” in order to clear his conscience in joining the side of the coup plotters.

However, when Kapan came to court this week, he changed his story, saying that he had been tortured for his initial statement. “I knew that the person I saw in the fleet’s mess was not the Adil Öksüz I had seen in the press,” he said. “I thought the person I saw was an admiral or general in civilian clothing.”

Who do we believe? If Akar’s recollections are correct, then the offer to put him in contact with Gülen may well have been a last-minute desperate measure by a group of putchist officers who had run out of other options and they may well have summoned Öksüz to their side as an intermediary in the process. Or he may have been a liaison point for the Gülenist wing of the coup attempt. Or, as the government claims, it may have been an operation led by Öksüz from the start. Their recruitment of Akar, even at that late stage, might have had a massive effect, allowing orders to be issued within the chain of command to branches of the military that had not taken part in the coup attempt and putting dissenting officers in a serious bind.

Even so, if they were not leading the coup, what need was there for the soldiers to bring a theology lecturer and his friends onto the base to hang out? One answer to this question may lie in the testimony of Capt. Ali Pehlivan of Air Force Intelligence, a self-admitted member of the Gülen movement who was unexpectedly summoned to the office of Gen. Sönmezateş, the head of the Joint Target Analysis Administration Center at the General Staff, and asked to identify the coordinates of targets in Ankara to be bombed during the coup attempt.

Pehlivan says he did not know that Sönmezateş was a member of the movement and was surprised that Sönmezateş had been able to find out that he was a member (something Sönmezateş fervently denies is the case in his testimony). This suggests that the Gülenists operated through a cell structure, with individuals not knowing who else was in the movement, and that thus they could only communicate or be organized from above. Similarly, Muharrem Köse reported being shocked to find out that another Gülenist – Lt. Col. Levant Turkkan, who was Chief of Staff Akar’s aide and had arranged his kidnapping – had learnt he was one as well. Adil Öksüz seems to have been the only Gülenist linked to the Air Force who knew who they all were.

Given what we know, the senior officers involved in the coup were a mixture of Gülenists and disgruntled non-Gülenists. But many low-ranking Gulenists were also crucial to the operation, likely because they were organized and loyal to a network that transcended the military hierarchy. (The fact that one of the coup plotters, known only by his initials O.K., tipped off the head of Turkey’s intelligence service on the day of the coup, however, suggests this loyalty was incomplete.) They were also known to have good reason to want a change of administration: They were likely aware of the fact that they were going to be purged in disgrace in less than three weeks’ time and not only lose the solidarity and brotherhood of the military environment, but also become social pariahs in a nation where Gülenists were fast becoming seen as public enemies.

Öksüz as the Key Link to Gülen

What do Adil Öksüz and Muharrem Köse, the two men accused at one time or another of being the number one suspects in the Turkish coup attempt, have in common?

They both have clear public ties to the Gülen movement, and they were both involved in some fashion with the coup. Yet almost every other detail initially given in the official narrative has later been subject to change. Out of the original 37-officer list advertised as including the top-ranking officers behind the coup attempt, only one remained on the 38-officer list provided to the press by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office in March 2017.

The government, its judiciary and the pro-government media are very much aware that they need a smoking gun if they are to successfully secure the extradition of Fethullah Gülen from the United States. Another indictment related to the coup, the so-called Ömer Halisdemir indictment, makes this clear:

At the top of the list of concrete indicators that the July 15 uprising was carried out by FETÖ is a matter whose time, location and subjects express significant meaning: the capture of Adil Öksüz, Kemal Batmaz and Harun Biniş at the Akıncı Air Base, which was used as the main base in the uprising.

It is undeniable that many officers involved in the coup, both senior and junior, were members or associates of the Gülen movement. But there were many others who were not, and the questions of whether movement members initiated the attempt or were being used by another faction, as well as whether Gülen himself participated in or ordered any illegal action, remain largely unanswered.

If the curiously vague anonymous sources cited in Şapka and Kuzgun’s testimony are backed up by any of the named suspects who supposedly attended planning meetings headed by Öksüz in advance of the coup, then the argument that he was one of its leaders rather than simply a man of useful contacts for the coup plotters will gain much weight. Similarly, if Öksüz’s trip to America in advance of the coup was for informing Gülen personally that it was about to happen or for receiving orders to transmit to the coup plotters, then Gülen can reasonably be said to have committed a crime. But for as long as these connections cannot clearly be made, it will be very difficult for the Turkish government to make a clear-cut case for Gülen’s personal extradition. Without Adil Öksüz, the link needed to prove or disprove this is missing, which is perhaps why someone has invested so much time in concealing what has become of him, despite months of searching by the Turkish authorities.

The Disappearing Act

After Adil Öksüz left the courthouse on July 18, he was called twice on his mobile phone by one of the gendarmes who had arrested him—who was, according to media reports, also a distant relative—and these calls went to the base stations at Ankara airport, and then Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen airport, according to the indictment. Öksüz went to Üsküdar in Istanbul, where he is alleged to have been aided by Erdal Şen, a journalist and former neighbor of President Erdogan, and the Gülen movement’s “Russia imam” Ali Sami Yıldırım: both are Öksüz’s relations through marriage. During this time, he calls a Mustafa Yıldırım, who may also be one of his in-laws, and a lawyer in Ankara.

Then Öksüz drove to his father-in-law’s house in the outskirts of Sakarya, where he made another call to the same lawyer on July 19 at 12:43. On July 20 at 13:02, he spoke to someone at the rector’s office of the university he was employed at, but no base station location is recorded in the indictment.

On July 21 at 10:22, the U.S. Embassy phoned him, a fact highlighted in bold in the indictment despite the embassy issuing a statement saying that they were merely informing Öksüz that they had cancelled his visa at the Turkish government’s request. This last call, however, was never answered; what had happened to him by then is unknown.

As the official narrative shifted from a coup led by Muharrem Köse to a coup led by Adil Öksüz, Öksüz’s unclear fate unleashed a frenzy of speculation.

Conspiracy Theory #1: Öksüz was Working for the Turkish Government

Main opposition CHP spokesman and MP Bülent Tezcan told Cumhuriyet that Öksüz having met with prime ministry staffer Sarıkoca during his time in jail was suspicious. The paper quotes him as saying:

Why did Adil Öksüz, the black box of the controlled coup, meet with a prime ministry legal advisor on that night? Why was Adil Öksüz released despite meeting with the prime ministry legal advisor that night and especially despite it coming to light that he was a FETÖ imam?… The truth behind the coup will come out.

CHP MP Eren Erdem would later go one step further and claim that Öksüz had met Defence Minister Fikri Işık the day before the coup. Işık’s private secretary, Colonel Tevfik Gök, had gone to Akıncı Air Base on the night of the coup and played an active role before also being arrested, being released under suspicious circumstances, and disappearing.

The opposition Aydınlık newspaper claimed that an AK Party MP, Fuat Köktaş, drove Adil Öksüz from Sakarya to Samsun, where he stayed overnight with local mayor Erdogan Tok before taking a boat to Batumi in Georgia, from which he fled to Kyrgyzstan.

Retired CHP MP Ali Özgündüz made the claim instead that Öksüz was arrested in Batumi together with Gülenist former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz.

But the prosecutors’ office in Samsun says no footage of Öksüz staying with Tok exists, and that contrary to reports, Tok had not been called in to give a statement. Turkish Foreign Ministry sources, meanwhile, revealed that informants in Tbilisi had reported a sighting of Öksüz, while others have noted that there are also ferries from Samsun to Russia.

Long-term critic of the Gülen movement Zübeyir Kındıra claimed that Öksüz was working for Turkey’s intelligence service (MİT) in a book called Şeytanın İmamları (Satan’s Imams). He bolstered this claim by reproducing a document showing that he had been hired by the service under the codename Timsah (Crocodile).

However, journalist Nedim Şener claimed the document was faked, while the staunchly pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi said that he could find no proof that Öksüz had ever been an agent.

Conspiracy Theory #2: Öksüz was Working for a Foreign Government

AK Party MP and Head of the Coup Investigation Commission Selçuk Özdag also denied claims Öksüz was working for MİT, but added that “If you say ‘Adil Öksüz had a connection with another country’s intelligence network,’ then [yes,] he did.”

The pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak, meanwhile, suggested that Öksüz was likely to be hiding in a diplomatic mission, since these cannot be searched by Turkish police.

AK Party MP Şamil Tayyar told the press that if Öksüz had not been executed or escaped overseas, he could well be hiding at the U.S. Consulate, especially given that they had phoned Öksüz on July 21.

The editor of Akşam wrote an op-ed in which he posited that Öksüz may have fled to the United States after being released. A sighting of Öksüz was even claimed in London’s Portobello Antiques Market, although this later turned out to be a lookalike.

Conspiracy Theory #3: The Gulenists Know Where Öksüz Is

Latif Erdogan, a former high-level Gülen movement adherent, told HaberTürk TV that “if [the Gülen movement] was unable to kidnap him, they would have executed him.”

Another informant told police that Öksüz had been living in a Gülenist-owned slum building near the Bulgarian border until the end of September, when he fled the country.

Then-Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag announced earlier this month that “all the means at the state’s disposal have been mobilized to search for this person” but admitted that he had no way of telling whether Öksüz had fled the country, was in hiding or had been executed to ensure his silence.

Conclusion

The secret behind the disappearing act of the “air force imam” has now been kept for over a year. He may be in hiding, in jail, in exile, in an unmarked grave or at the bottom of the Black Sea, but his very absence is allowing for extravagant claims about his role in the coup to go unchallenged.

At the same time, the intense complexities of the case have led most individuals to simply accept the government’s narrative without question. Few segments of society have any love for the Gülen movement, and fewer still discriminate between its leader and its adherents. But if Adil Öksüz’s mission in visiting the United States in the week before the coup attempt were merely to warn Fethullah Gülen of the impending coup, rather than to obtain permission or orders, and if Gülen movement members in the military took part alongside others as a fightback against an impending purge, then it is much more difficult to make the case for the United States to extradite Gülen. Given the extremely flimsy evidence of Öksüz’s role on the night of the coup, it seems that he might be more accurately described as an accessory to it than the criminal mastermind he is being made out to be.

 

John Butler is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist and consultant living and working in Turkey.

Image: Anadolu Agency

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