Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, has said the EU does not share Turkey’s view that the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, is a terrorist organization and that it would need to see “substantive” evidence to change its position, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
“As for FETO [a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement], we don’t see it as a terrorist organization, and I don’t believe the EU is likely to change its position soon,” Kerchove said.
“You need not only circumstantial evidence — like just downloading an app — but concrete substantive data which shows that they were involved…” he told Reuters in an interview.
De Kerchove’s comments are expected to cause outrage in Turkey.
Erdoğan and his government launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which ministers and the son of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were accused of having taken bribes from an Iranian businessman to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.
After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the corruption investigation was dropped.
Erdoğan publicly called on people not to send their children to Gülen movement schools, not to read or watch their media and not to put their money in Bank Asya. All were legal but were linked to the Gülen movement.
Penal courts of peace, which were established by the Erdoğan government in mid-2014, started to jail people and seize companies, media and schools linked with the Gülen movement from summer 2014 on.
Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
The government has seized at least 1,068 companies and 4,888 properties as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.