U.S.-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen on Monday condemned the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey as a “heinous act of terror” and urged the Turkish government to identify anyone who aided the gunman, Reuters reported.
“I condemn in the strongest terms this heinous act of terror,” Gülen said in a written statement. “Turkish and international experts repeatedly have pointed out the deterioration of security and counter-terrorism efforts due to the Turkish government’s assigning hundreds of counter-terrorism police officers to unrelated posts, as well as the firing and imprisoning many others since 2014,” Gülen added.
Gülen’s statement was issued after one of his advisers strongly denied allegations by an unnamed senior Turkish security official of “very strong signs” that the gunman who killed the ambassador belonged to Gülen’s movement.
Allegations by an unnamed senior Turkish security official are “laughable” and intended to cover up lax security, the adviser, Alp Aslandoğan, told Reuters.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Despite the fact that Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, denied the accusation and called for an international investigation into the failed coup, President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the Turkish government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
More than 120,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 80,000 detained and some 40,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.