Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) reports that it has deciphered an encrypted message U.S.-based imam Fethullah Gulen sent his followers who have fled Turkey, urging them to unite in the countries where they are now residing and “perform activities against Turkey,” according to Hurriyet Daily News.
Hurriyet highlighted the MIT report on Monday, a day before Agence-France Presse (AFP) reported:
Turkish prosecutors have demanded two life sentences and an additional 1,900 years in prison for US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for masterminding last month’s failed coup, state media reported on Tuesday.
In a 2,527-page indictment approved by prosecutors in the Usak region of western Turkey, Gulen is charged with ‘attempting to destroy the constitutional order by force’ and ‘forming and running an armed terrorist group’ among other accusations, the Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused his former ally, Gulen, of conspiring to remove him.
Gulen’s Islamist movement, known by the Turkish name Hizmet (service), has been deemed a terrorist organization by the Erdogan government. The 75-year-old cleric lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
According to MIT, Gulen told his followers in the encrypted message:
Unite under the roof of ‘Hizmet diaspora,’ carry on with the Hizmet movement in the country that you’re in. Don’t use the words, ‘escape’ and ‘running away.’ Instead of using the two words, say that you are performing the Hijra because of the pressure and cruelty [in Turkey].
The MİT cracked the messages of Gulenists sent via little-known smartphone messaging apps Eagle and Bylock, which previously came to prominence in a Reuters report saying that the intelligence agency tracked thousands of people suspected of being followers of the movement.
Gulen reportedly sent his orders consisting of four articles under the name of ‘urgent action plan.’
Urging followers to take their families with them, Gulen noted that they should ‘perform activities against Turkey’ in the diaspora.
Following the abortive coup, the Erdogan government cracked down on tens of thousands of people in Turkey’s army, police, and the courts, many whom were linked to Gulen. The purge was expanded to universities and schools.
Many so-called Gulenists are believed to have fled Turkey after the failed coup.
Some Turkish government officials have accused the United States of sheltering Gulen and participating in the insurrection.
Erdogan has urged the United States to extradite the imam. Although the Obama administration has indicated it would entertain a formal extradition request, it has asked Turkey to provide evidence showing that Gulen was involved in the coup.
Gulen also gave directions on how Gulenists should travel between countries, saying they should avoid staying in countries with whom Turkey has good relations.
Romania, Georgia, Ukraine and northern Iraq could be used as transit points, but Gulenists should not stay in those places due to their good relations with Ankara in order to avoid being extradited, Gülen reportedly warned.
Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly identified Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Egypt as some of the countries his followers should travel to.