Turkish court considers food photo evidence of terrorist activity

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A Turkish court sentenced a teacher identified only as F.K. to six years, three months’ imprisonment on conviction of membership in a terrorist organization based on a photo taken of him while cooking “maqluba,” a dish popular in Middle Eastern countries, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

According to the Bold Medya news website, the prosecutor said in the indictment that a photo showing F.K. among a group of people in a house cooking maqluba, “the signature dish of the FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, as the Gülen movement is called by the Turkish government] armed terrorist organization” was retrieved from his laptop in a folder named “food photos.”

According to the indictment, in another photo a book by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen was also visible, and based on the information “[the prosecution] considers that the house in question is a [Gülen movement] safe house.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Maqluba is a popular dish in parts of Turkey and neighboring countries, but Turkish authorities continue to consider it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization. That was the case in the indictment that led to the eventual conviction of American pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges.

According to the indictment, Brunson’s daughter sent him pictures of maqluba, a traditional Arab dish. The prosecutor argued that this was the signature dish of a terrorist organization (referring to the Gülen movement) and consumed frequently in their so-called safe houses and was proof of Brunson’s link to a terrorist cell.

Brunson, a US citizen residing in Turkey, was arrested on terrorism charges, and his lengthy pretrial detention led to a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and US that caused the Trump administration to impose sanctions on Turkey. He was convicted of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations, released due to time served and returned to the US.

NBA star Enes Kanter shared this video of Ariana Rockefeller showing her first experience with cooking maqluba:

Following the abortive putsch of July 2016, the Turkish government accepted such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institutions linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines as benchmarks for identifying and arresting tens of thousands alleged members of the movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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