February 5, 2016

Gülen seeks to dismiss US lawsuit, says it is ‘pure political theater’

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Turkish government in the US on the grounds that the charges are political.

Gülen's legal battle with the Turkish government extended to the US last December, when Turkish prosecutors brought charges to a federal court in Pennsylvania, where Gülen currently resides. The 78-year-old Turkish cleric, a staunch critic of the Turkish government, is now asking the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to dismiss the lawsuit.

“The lawsuit against Mr. Gülen is pure political theater and is completely without merit,” said Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Gülen's attorney.

Gülen is accused of restricting the freedoms of three individuals, members of a radical group believed to have links with al-Qaeda. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly backed the group, whose leader had said on live TV that he loves Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's slain leader.

Gülen is facing a similar investigation in his home country, Turkey, too. According to the indictment prepared by Turkish prosecutors, Gülen allegedly sent encrypted instructions to his sympathizers in the police force through an online sermon to target the radical Islamist group. The investigation in Turkey has been mocked by jurists as “ludicrous.”

“This lawsuit is … a misuse of American judicial resources. It is the brainchild of the Turkish government and part of a broad campaign to silence Mr. Gülen,” a motion prepared by Weingarten and Michael C. Miller, Gülen's lawyers, said.

The motion dismissed the case as “baseless” and said the “spy thriller allegations,” as they pertain to Gülen, are “pure nonsense.” It claimed that the lawsuit only serves to advance Erdoğan's political agenda.

“This rank misuse of the federal courts in the United States should not be tolerated,” his lawyers said in the motion. The plaintiffs have until March 16 to respond to Gülen's 25-page long motion.

“This lawsuit appears to be the latest in a series of politically motivated attacks leveled by the Turkish government against Gülen, who has publicly accused the Erdoğan administration of being corrupt and authoritarian,” Weingarten said in a statement on Tuesday.

The civil suit seeks monetary damages from Gülen.

The lawyers said Gülen continues to strongly deny these allegations and is confident that the court will grant his motion to dismiss the complaint.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 February 2016, Thursday