The religious movement led by U.S.-based Islamist guru Fethullah Gülen has officially been deemed a terrorist organization by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Turkish president has repeatedly accused the group of trying to topple the government in his country.
“We will not let those who divide the nation off the hook in this country,” Erdoğan declared on Monday, according to Reuters. “They will be brought to account. Some fled and some are in prison and are currently being tried. This process will continue.”
“[Erdoğan’s] move [to designate the Gülen movement a terrorist group] puts the organization built by his former ally legally on par with Kurdish militants currently fighting the army in Turkey’s southeast,” notes the news outlet. “Erdoğan might use the designation in pressing Washington to extradite Gülen, a step U.S. authorities are nonetheless unlikely to take without concrete grounds.”
The Turkish leader pointed out that his administration backed his decision to officially label the Islamist movement as the “Gülenist terror group.”
“Erdoğan, accused by his critics of an increasingly authoritarian style of rule, has long described Gülen as a terrorist,” reports Reuters. “He seeks to break the cleric’s influence, built on a network of schools and companies in Turkey and abroad.”
Gaffney accused the Clintons of allowing the leader of the group into the United States years ago.
“He is running a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, some of which has to do with real estate development, and construction, and media operations around the world, particularly in Turkey,” said the Center for Security Policy president, noting that Gülen also runs an estimated 150 schools across the globe, including many in the United States.
The Turkish government has hired an international law firm, Amsterdam and Partners LLP, to investigate the international activities of the movement.
Amsterdam described Gülen, a powerful opponent of Turkish President Erdoğan, as “a reclusive but influential Imam living under self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania to avoid criminal prosecution in his native Turkey.”
Reuters points out, “Affiliated media firms have been shut down or taken over, a bank seized, and hundreds of people detained. Thousands of the cleric’s followers in the police and judiciary have either lost their jobs or been reassigned.”
The Turkish president has accused the Gülenist leader of conspiring to remove him from office by assembling a network of supporters in the media, judiciary, and education sectors of the country.
Gülen denies the accusations.
The movement’s leader was Erdoğan’s ally at one point, a relationship that ended when police and prosecutors considered to be Gülen supporters launched an investigation into the president’s inner circle in 2013, 11 years after the ruling AK Party took office.
“Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for more than a decade, preaches Sunni Islam together with a message of interfaith dialogue,” reports Reuters. “His movement, known as ‘Hizmet’ or ‘Service’ operates in Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa.”