Turkey says not satisfied by US statement on phone call to prime coup suspect

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) looks on as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) speaks during a joint news conference in Ankara, on March 30, 2017. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on March 30, 2017 the Syrian people would decide the future of President Bashar al-Assad. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkish authorities have voiced dissatisfaction with a statement by the US Embassy in Turkey regarding a phone call to Adil Öksüz six days after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in which he is accused of being a key figure and is the prime suspect.

Speaking during a TV program on NTV on Thursday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said a more satisfactory explanation is needed. “That is the official statement, if you buy it,” Yıldırım said.

The US Embassy in Ankara said in a statement on Wednesday the US Consulate General in İstanbul called Öksüz on July 21, 2016 after Turkish police contacted the US mission in Turkey the same day for help in preventing him from leaving the country.

As a direct result of close U.S.-Turkish law enforcement cooperation, a call from the U.S. Consulate General Istanbul to a phone belonging to Adil Oksuz on July 21, 2016 did occur. On that day, the Turkish National Police called the U.S. Mission Turkey to request our assistance in preventing Adil Oksuz from fleeing Turkey. We then revoked his U.S. visa and, as required by U.S. law, tried to call him to inform him of the cancellation. Far from being suspicious, the call from the Consulate General illustrates the close U.S.-Turkish law enforcement cooperation following the coup attempt,” the US Embassy statement read.

During a press conference with his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also expressed dissatisfaction over the statement by the US Embassy on the call to Öksüz and said, “We, of course, want to believe such a statement and don’t want to search for anything behind it, but we want to see the concrete details of this issue.”
Tillerson also commented, saying the phone call was “part of normal procedure.”

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also said during an interview with A Haber on Thursday that Turkey is expecting more sensitivity and genuine cooperation from the US on the issue.

There is no genuine cooperation. High-level support is shown to FETÖ. That’s why we don’t see sincerity here,” he also said.

FETÖ,” or the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization, is a derogatory term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement, a global civil society movement inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Öksüz was caught while trying to escape from Akıncı Air Base in Ankara on the morning of July 16, 2016, but he was released a short while later by a court in Sincan. He has been at large since then.

According to Turkish authorities, Öksüz met high-level commanders in Ankara while preparing for the coup, and it has also been claimed that Öksüz was the “Air Force imam” of the Gülen movement.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded it. Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10.

As of March 23, 94,982 people were being held without charge, with an additional 47,128 in pre-trial detention due to their alleged links to the movement. A total of 7,317 academics were purged as well as 4,272 judges and prosecutors, who were dismissed due to alleged involvement in the July 15 coup attempt.

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