Turkish President Threatens Expat Citizens With Links To US-Based Cleric

Photo: Reuters

Turkish president has threatened his citizens around the world who may have links to a U.S.-based cleric accused of masterminding the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July, vowing that they won’t be safe wherever they are in the world.

“There is no country or region in the world that will be a safe haven for [followers of cleric Fethullah Gulen],” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a news conference as he departed for New York to attend UN General Assembly meeting.

Erdogan’s remarks on Monday illustrated his government’s unwavering determination to push further to curb activities of the Gulen movement around the world. In New York, Erdogan said he would have a chance to explain to world leaders how this movement poses a threat.

“It would be too late,” Erdogan said during his UNGA speech on Tuesday, “when you realize how dangerous this organization is.” The president was referring to the Gulen movement.

“From this podium I am calling on all our friends to immediately take the necessary measures against the Fethullahist terrorist organization for their own safety and the future of their nations,” Erdogan said.

In the U.S., the Turkish government hired at least 10 lobby and law firms to go after the Gulen movement and affiliated organizations.

Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, Ankara has intensified its efforts abroad to undermine the Gulen movement’s activities. Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Sudan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Somalia, Turkey’s closest allies, either shut down or nationalized educational facilities and hospitals run by Gulenists.

Despite putting pressure on the U.S. and other European countries, Western nations were reluctant to go after the Gulen institutions and individuals and demanded that Ankara provide substantial evidence to back up its claims.

The president repeatedly claimed that the Gulen movement is not only a threat to Turkey, but also to host countries. He claimed last week that the Gulen movement’s goal is to take over 170 countries, where it established schools and charity organizations.

Turkey’s top national security council officially framed the Gulen movement as a terrorist group late May. The U.S. announced that it does not view the Gulen movement as a foreign terrorist organization and that it “is up to Turkish officials” to do so.

Last year, President Erdogan ordered all Turkish ambassadors in the world to go after individuals and institutions affiliated with the Gulen movement. He hired a British law firm headed by Robert Amsterdam at a rate of $50,000 a month to pursue the Gulenists in the US and in Africa, where they established hundreds of schools, orphanages, hospitals and aid centers.