Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan has destroyed Turkish democracy

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US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of destroying the Turkish democracy by achieving a stronghold on the country, confiscating major companies, and rewarding his “co-conspirators.”

In an article published in the French daily, Le-Monde, and translated to Arabic by Zaman, an online Turkish newspaper, Gulen says “Erdogan has destroyed [Turkish] democracy, which was good news for Turkey, by having a tight grip on the state, confiscating large companies and rewarding his co-conspirators.”

Accusations of corruption and nepotism have long followed Erdogan.

Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak was the CEO of Çalık Holding, a conglomerate that operates in many sectors. According to the Panama Papers, the leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for thousands of offshore entities, Çalık Holding had entered the media business in 2008 by purchasing Sabah ATV, which owns ATV television network and Sabah, a Turkish newspaper that became the government’s mouthpiece.

Although Sabah ATV was not profitable, and Çalık Holding had lost millions, their broadcast of positive reports about the government increased the company’s chances of being awarded lucrative contracts.

Albayrak was elected to parliament with Erdogan’s political party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2015, and later became Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources from 2015 up until he was named Minister of Treasury and Finance in 2018.

According to CNBC, Turkish markets sank after Erdogan hired his son-in-law as finance minister in 2018 after removing some incumbent officials considered friendlier to foreign investors.

Gulen said Turkish citizens who are under surveillance for political reasons and who want to leave the country are deprived of their basic rights by having their passports confiscated.

“Erdogan has taken advantage of Turkey's reputation at the international level since 1923, using diplomatic relations and mobilizing state resources to harass and kidnap sympathizers around the world,” he said.

“He also declared me an enemy of the state and accused me and my sympathizers of being the cause of all the evils and problems that occurred recently in Turkey, in order to tighten his grip on power and influence Turkish public opinion,” Gulen said.

Turkish President Erdogan accuses Gulen - a former ally - of trying to overthrow the government and blamed him for masterminding the 2016 coup attempt, carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces. Erdogan had said Gulen used his followers in the judiciary and military to try and overthrow the government.

Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania for the past 17 years. He has denied any involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Tens of thousands of people have been held over alleged ties to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen since the failed coup while over 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended.

Additionally, earlier in February, Turkish police launched operations to detain 110 more individuals, mostly soldiers, suspected of ties to the group blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, the Ankara public prosecutor’s office said.

“The mass arrests of thousands of innocent people because of their sympathy for an individual or group continue in Turkey. More than 150,000 have lost their jobs, more than 200,000 have been placed in pre-trial detention, and more than 50,000 have been arrested,” Gulen said in his Le Monde article.

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