The personnel costs of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have increased by 72 percent since a coup attempt in July 2016, mainly due to funds expended to bring suspected Gülen movement members back to Turkey from abroad, the Sözcü daily reported on Wednesday, citing audit reports by the Turkish Court of Accounts.
MİT spent TL 768.8 million ($86.6 million) on personnel costs in 2016, while the figure increased to TL 1.3 billion ($148.8 million) in 2020, mainly due to the employment of communications engineers, language specialists, intelligence agents and local elements to carry out operations to bring back suspected Gülen movement members from overseas, Sözcü said, citing sources.
Audit reports for 2020 also revealed that MİT spent TL 2.44 billion ($276 million) throughout the year, while the budget allocated by the government to the agency for that period was TL 2.18 billion ($246 million).
According to Sözcü, MİT’s employment policy went through a radical change after the coup attempt, with the purge of intelligence specialists, civil servant candidates appointed by the Foreign Ministry and personnel from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the police on temporary assignment who were suspected of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement.
The agency had also removed some 509 staff from their jobs, including İdris Karagöz, who served as secretary of the private cabinet of MİT Director Hakan Fidan, between December 2013 and 2017, Sözcü said.
The Gülen movement is a faith-based group that focuses on science education, volunteerism, community involvement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The movement is inspired by the teachings of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement 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 the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Both Gülen and the members of his group strongly deny any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activities.
Turkey’s secret service has abducted scores of the country’s citizens abroad over the past five years, with the kidnappings and forced renditions being mostly of suspected supporters of Gülen.
Some victims of enforced disappearance in Turkey have spoken out in court after they were found in police custody, recounting the systematic and severe torture they were subjected to during their interrogation by government operatives, who, victims said, waited until their wounds had healed to hand them over to the police.
A recent report by Freedom House on global transnational repression revealed the intensity, geographic reach and suddenness of the Turkish government’s campaign targeting dissidents abroad, noting that Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions from host states since 2014. The government has pursued its perceived enemies in at least 30 different host countries spread across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia since July 2016, the report said.
According to official statements by its interior ministry, Turkey has sent 800 extradition requests to 105 countries since the attempt, and more than 110 alleged members of the Gülen movement have been brought back to Turkey as part of the government’s global campaign.
Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the country’s domestic security agency, said in a report last year that Germany is one of the main targets of Turkey’s MİT, with its personnel estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000.