January 23, 2015

Pro-gov’t daily claims White House held special session on Gülen

Pro-government Turkish daily Takvim claimed in a Friday report that the White House held a special session on Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is based in the US, in September 2014.

The daily's top story, titled "Gülen summit at White House," claims that US Vice President Joe Biden headed the meeting, whose only topic was Gülen. The picture featured on the daily's front cover is of Obama sitting at a desk, holding a file, with Gülen's photograph Photoshopped onto the file and Biden Photoshopped standing next to Obama.

According to the story, the meeting attendees assessed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's demand for Gülen to be extradited to Turkey, though there is no convictions from any courts against the scholar. The daily claimed that Biden said in the White House meeting that the US needs the partnership of the Turkish government rather than that of Gülen. US President Barack Obama agreed with Biden on his view, according to the daily.

The daily claims a CIA report on Gülen led Obama and Biden to think that extraditing Gülen to Turkey would strengthen Erdoğan's hand while weakening that of Washington, because the CIA's study showed that the a majority of the Turkish public see Gülen as being linked to Israel and the US. The daily asserted that Obama and Biden have now agreed to deport Gülen to a third country, like Saudi Arabia, adding that Obama spoke to late Saudi King Abdullah in a September meeting about the idea, which the king did not reject.

Erdoğan, speaking on TV in March 2014, said that during a phone call with President Obama on Feb. 19 he had asked for Gülen to be extradited because he is a threat to Turkey's national security. Erdoğan claimed that Obama had viewed this request “positively” and replied by saying, “I got the message.”

In March 2014, the White House had accused Erdoğan, who was the prime minister at the time, of misrepresenting the content of his phone conversation with Obama on Feb. 19 regarding the extradition of Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania. “The response attributed to President Obama with regard to Mr. Gülen is not accurate,” the White House said in an e-mailed statement to various press organizations on March 9.

Gülen is in self-imposed exile in the US, though there is no legal hurdle preventing him from returning to Turkey. Shortly after he went to the US in 2000, he was charged with establishing an illegal organization in Turkey, but he was eventually acquitted in 2008. After a corruption and bribery investigation went public on Dec. 17 of last year, around 50 people were detained, including the sons of three ministers as well as businesspeople and bureaucrats. Allegations arose that several ministers were also implicated in the scandal. Shortly afterward, Erdoğan reassigned the prosecutors and thousands of police officers involved in the case, claiming that they were under the control of Gülen and trying to create a “state within a state.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 January 2015, Friday