Turkey Arrests, Releases U.S. Soldier for Alleged Ties to Cleric Fethullah Gulen

Intruder chased from Gulen's US compound, Turkish cleric's group says
AFP

Turkish authorities temporarily detained an American service member this week over alleged ties to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen (pictured) who is considered a terrorist by Ankara, news reports revealed on Thursday.

Stars and Stripes noted.

U.S. European Command said the soldier was released Thursday, but had no other details. The American was identified as Yahya Ozer, who is listed in U.S. military records as an Army specialist assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Syria. …In August, a group of pro-government lawyers in Turkey filed charges against several U.S. officers associated with the air base, seeking their arrest for alleged ties to terrorist groups. Ozer was apparently headed back to the U.S. when he was taken into custody in Istanbul.

Ozer, a U.S. citizen with Turkish roots, was reportedly stationed at America’s Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

On Thursday, the pro-Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan newspaper Aksam newspaper reported that Turkish authorities took the American soldier into custody at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport this week.

Turkish authorities reportedly accused the U.S. soldier of being a follower of Gulen, a Muslim cleric who is in self-imposed exiled in Pennsylvania and wanted by the Erdogan regime.

Erdogan has officially designated the Islamic movement led by Gulen as a terrorist group — the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETO).

The Turkish regime has repeatedly demanded that the United States extradite Gulen, to no avail. Tukey’s Aksam newspaper claimed that the American soldier had connections to the Texas-based charter education institution known as Harmony Public Schools, which has reportedly received funding from Gulen’s supporters.

Kurdistan 24 revealed that Turkish authorities issued a warrant for Ozer for alleged membership to the Gulenist movement.

Turkey recently claimed that the Trump administration had expressed a willingness to extradite Gulen, but the White House has disputed the allegation, Stars and Stripes pointed out.

“There are already several US individuals and Turkish staff working for American diplomatic posts held in Turkish prisons,” Kurdistan 24 noted.

America’s Incirlik Air Base in Turkey is a prominent hub for U.S. troops in the region and has played a pivotal role in delivering airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

News of the American soldier’s arrest came as the Trump administration announced it is pulling its military out of Syria.

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