Former President Abdullah Gül would have been labeled as a follower of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016, and subsequently jailed if he had joined the opposition against current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to a new book by Gül’s press secretary, Ahmet Sever.
Sever’s second book, in which he tells about his years with Gül, who is among the co-founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and the events he witnessed as his press secretary, hit the shelves on Thursday.
There is a reference to a Financial Times article by David Gardner that was published before a constitutional referendum in Turkey in April 2017, as a result of which Turkey switched to a presidential from a parliamentary system.
The Financial Times story says being a Gülenist “is a powerful stick with which to threaten much mooted but usually muted potential dissidents, such as former president Abdullah Gül, co-founder of the AKP, or Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former prime minister President Erdoğan fired a year ago [in 2016].”
Asked what would happen if they or other AKP veterans Erdoğan has strewn by the wayside were to start a rival party, a government campaign strategist, who remained anonymous, said, “If they make any move they will be branded as Gülenists and jailed.”
In his book, Sever says he learned from a close friend who knows Gardner well that the AKP official who made these remarks was AKP deputy Mustafa Şentop, an Erdoğan aide.
Sever says it was impossible for Şentop to have made such a statement to a British journalist without the knowledge and approval of Erdoğan. “It is obvious that a talk had taken place about such a possibility. It was debated and a decision was made that if Gül or Davutoğlu were to make such a move [to join the opposition], they would be branded as FETÖ members and jailed,” writes Sever.
FETÖ is a term coined by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.
Fethullah 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.
More than 150,000 people have been fired from public jobs while more than 50,000 have been put in pre-trial detention due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup.