October 24, 2015

Gülen chosen as a ‘victim’ to cover up graft claims, Germany espionage trial reveals

One of the wiretapped phone conversations among two suspects that were included in an indictment prepared by the federal attorney-general of Germany against them over charges of espionage has revealed that the renowned Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was chosen as a “victim” by the government to gloss over corruption claims.

The voice recording between one of the suspects in the case, Ahmet Duran Yüksel and a man identified as Hünkar A. was played aloud during Thursday’s hearing of the trial. Yüksel was reportedly working for Muhammed Taha Gergerlioğlu, a former aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the the conversation wiretapped on Dec. 20, 2013, three days after a major corruption probe broke out in Turkey, Hünkar A. tells Yüksel that “there should of course be a victim” as they discuss repercussions of the probe. “There is already a victim. You know Fethullah Gülen has been chosen. He will be given a severe headache,” Yüksel says in response.

In the recording, Yüksel continues to say that a major overhaul will be carried out in the National Police Department, saying “17,000 police officers will be removed from post.” Yüksel also claims that “an assassination will be carried out” on New Year, but does not give details on who will be killed by whom.

Gergerlioğlu, Yüksel and German national Göksel G., who were arrested in Germany in December over suspicion of espionage, are the three suspects in the trial heard at the Koblenz High Court in Germany. In May, the federal attorney-general of Germany filed charges against the trio for spying for Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

The indictment, which includes wiretapped phone conversations among the suspects, also shows that they sought to discredit Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US.

Gülen, who is internationally acclaimed for his promotion of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and educational activities, was serving as a preacher and an imam before he moved to the US in 1999. He became a target of Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government following the eruption of a corruption scandal which implicated Erdoğan's inner circle in late 2013.

Erdoğan has accused the Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen, of operating a "parallel structure" of supporters in the judiciary, police, media and other institutions that have operated against him, while the movement denies the charge.

Turkish spies in Germany are said to have been ordered to spy on Erdoğan's opponents in Germany, including members of the Kurdish minority, the faith-based Gülen movement and other Turkish nationals in Germany who were critical of the Turkish leadership.

According to court documents, the goal of the espionage group was to track and spy on Turkish and Kurdish dissidents who were then to be detained upon their return to Turkey.

Gergerlioğlu was reportedly sent, in 2011, by MİT head Hakan Fidan with a fund of 25,000 euros to launch a consulting company for German-Turkish companies in the city of Bad Dürkheim with Göksel G.

Gergerlioğlu reportedly ran the other defendants as agents. The three reportedly collected information on people of Turkish origin living in Germany who were critical of the Turkish government.

The indictment against Gergerlioğlu and the other suspects states that they engaged in acts of espionage for MİT. Yüksel and Göksel G. were charged with collecting information about dissidents opposing Erdoğan in Germany on the command of Gergerlioğlu.

The suspects are facing a prison sentence of up to five years, according to German laws.

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