Relative of Gülen and missing imam seeking asylum in Greece - Vice
The Greek government will weigh up a request for political asylum from a relative of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher whose religious movement is blamed for the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, news site Vice’s Greek language page reported.
While Turkey says thousands of Gülen’s followers have fled to Greece, this asylum seeker is a special case as he has not only has a family connection to the preacher, but is also a relative of Adil Öksüz, a Gülenist thought to have been one of the coup’s architects who escaped arrest under suspicious circumstances.
Öksüz, an academic believed to be a leader, or "imam" of the Gülen movement, was arrested near an airbase that was served as the coup's headquarters after the coup failed. However, he was released two days later by a judge who later confessed to being a Gülenist, and subsequently vanished. He is now one of the most wanted men in Turkey.
The 29-year-old told Vice that his entire family had been in the Gülen movement since his grandfather joined in the early 1970s.
The asylum seeker initially fled to North Macedonia in 2018, but crossed the border to Greece after news reports emerged of Turkish intelligence operatives moving against suspected Gülenists in Balkan countries.
Six alleged members of the movement were detained in Kosovo in March 2018 and deported to Istanbul by Turkish intelligence agents.
Greece has become a haven for members of the movement seeking asylum. A Greek court’s refusal to extradite eight Turkish servicemen who fled following the coup led to a diplomatic spat last year.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government once had close relations with the Gülen movement, which is widely believed to have infiltrated state institutions, using influential positions to further its own agenda.
The AKP publicly denounced the movement after Gülen-linked prosecutors and judges launched corruption probes on senior government figures in 2013.
The government added the movement, calling it the “Fetullahist Terrorist Organisation” (FETÖ), to its terror list in 2016. Months later, army factions led by officers allegedly linked to the movement attempted to overthrow the AKP government. Hundreds of civilians were killed on the night of the coup attempt, as Turks took to the streets to oppose the putschist forces.
Massive purges followed the coup attempt, stripping tens of thousands with even tenuous links to the Gülen movement of their jobs and leaving tens of thousands more jailed. Many followers of Gülen have fled Turkey to seek asylum elsewhere.
The 29-year-old asylum seeker told Vice he would provide a video recording of police searching his car shortly after the coup as evidence that he is under threat in Turkey.
The police officers seized the man’s passport and put him on camera to call on his father, who had fled to England in the aftermath of the coup, to face arrest, Vice reported.
There is wide agreement in Turkey that the Gülen movement was the main actor behind the coup attempt. Other observers have been more ambiguous.
The United States has said the evidence provided to its judiciary is not sufficient to extradite Gülen from his self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. While a 2017 British government report
said some Gülenists were involved in the coup attempt, it said there was a lack of hard evidence that the movement as a whole had planned it.