Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the US, will face the same end as six Turks who were abducted in Kosovo and removed to Turkey on March 29, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) on Thursday abducted six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working for a group of schools affiliated with the faith–based Gülen movement and removed them to Turkey the same day.
Hailing the MIT operation during a party meeting in İstanbul on Saturday, Erdoğan said: “The one [Gülen] who fled to Pennsylvania gets into a big flap. He wonders what his end will be. You will share the same end as those in Kosovo.”
“I stand with the prayers of this nation. I guess you are trying to stand with prayers of Hans and Georges [Christians]. This is the difference between us,” added Erdoğan.
The abduction of the Turkish nationals sparked a political crisis in Kosovo. Prime Minister Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, on Saturday tweeted that the six Turkish nationals would face the risk of torture and abuse in Turkey.
US media last year reported that Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, was part of a potential bargain between former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and top Turkish officials.
An alleged plan that involved Flynn forcibly removing Gülen in return for millions of dollars is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 10, 2017.
Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City.
The alleged meeting to discuss the kidnapping of Gülen followed another meeting in September in New York between Flynn and Berat Albayrak, energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the attendance of former CIA director James Woolsey, who described the proposal to The Wall Street Journal as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pursued a crackdown on the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.
Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
Despite the movement strongly denying involvement in the failed coup, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement following the putsch.
A total of 62,895 people were detained in 2017 as part of investigations into the movement, according to Interior Ministry reports.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Jan. 5 said 48,305 people were jailed in 2017 alone over Gülen movement links.
Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been jailed and 234,419 passports have been revoked as part of investigations into the movement since the failed coup.
On Nov. 16 Soylu had said eight holdings and 1,020 companies were seized as part of operations against the movement.
The number of people who have been investigated for alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement reached 402,000 in March, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on March 15.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 15, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency declared after the coup attempt.