Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer representing the Turkish government, appeared on Friday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss his exclusive article at Breitbart News, “Turkey: Is the Gülen Organization a Cult?”
Essentially, what we’re saying is that Mr. Gülen, who the Turkish government believes has been central to the planning of this coup in Turkey, has 150 charter schools in the United States, is educating through them 60,000 American students, taking half a billion dollars out of the U.S. economy, and essentially, he is a cult leader.
“Let me be clear: this is no smear on Islam,” he added. “This issue is much more about a cult. A famous basketball player was renounced by his parents in Turkey for being a sympathizer to Gülen, then changed his name to Gülen and renounced his entire family. That’s an American basketball player from Turkey.”
Amsterdam said that whistleblowers have said that “there is some proselytizing for this cult going on in some of these schools, which bring Turkish followers of Gülen to the United States on H-1B visas, that then these teachers from Turkey kick back 20 to 30 percent of their income to the imams.”
Amsterdam disputed the media notion that Gülen had developed what SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon described as a “friendlier, smiley-face version of Islam.”
“If you look at his writings in Turkish, he is anti-Semitic. He is very much in favor of a more radical adaptation of Islam,” Amsterdam argued, adding:
But what goes on in the U.S. is not so much proselytizing Islam, as it is proselytizing membership in his cult. I think that’s what’s concerning, is that what we’ve learned in Turkey, and what we’re seeing in the United States, is that people who are made friendly or sympathetic to his cult are then willing to act on a fairly hierarchical set of orders that comes through regional and local imams that he has spread throughout not only the United States, but nearly a hundred countries in the world.
Bannon asked Amsterdam if he thought the Turkish government had amassed enough evidence against Gülen to make a convincing case for the United States to extradite him.
“I think the Turkish government believes, absolutely, that this man was responsible. Many believe it was a matter of minutes before the President would have been killed or captured by troops operating under his organization,” Amsterdam replied, referring to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The issue about ultimatums, and the issue about Turkey’s position, is you need to understand the level of frustration in Turkey. They have spent years telling the United States, asking the United States, to investigate Gülen, telling them there is millions of dollars flowing back to Turkey for subversive operations to this guy, and there has been very little concrete done to curb this.
Amsterdam disagreed with Bannon’s suggestion that the Obama administration has been on generally good terms with Turkey.
“To be honest, I don’t think the administration in any way has been necessarily friendly with Turkey,” he said. “President Obama gave an interview a few months ago that was incredibly negative on Turkey and its leader. So I wouldn’t agree with your characterization.”
“One of the things that many perceive in Turkey to be blocking American action is the systematic political donations that are managed by the Gülen group. They give political donations and trips to Turkey to hundreds and hundreds of political leaders, of both parties, in the United States,” Amsterdam charged. “Congress is investigating, in a massive ethics inquiry, 200 congressional delegations that went to Turkey at the behest of, it appears, the Gülen organization.”
“I will tell you, when I speak to people in Texas or Indiana, I find, shockingly, bureaucrats, members of the Houses in those states, have been to Turkey,” he said. He continued:
When we look at various states where audits have been requested of the Gülen schools, we find that Gülen has made political contributions to some of the politicians on the audit committees of their state legislatures. These people have been incredibly scientific about how they donate money politically, to grant themselves what appears to be some form of impunity.
Bannon asked Amsterdam to address the “rising Islamist wave” in Turkey, a profound shift away from the secular path blazed by leaders like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the previous century.
“I think many people in Turkey would view President Erdogan and what he’s done, the economic miracle that’s happened in Turkey – they would more portray him as a Ronald Reagan Republican than they would anything else, in terms of his belief in freedom for business,” Amsterdam replied.
“In terms of his Party and their view that there can be some sort of role and inspiration from Islam, I think that’s an issue where he adopts, the President has adopted, a view that Islam is an important facet of Turkey,” he stated, continuing:
The vast majority – over 90 some-odd percent – follow Islam. He’s promoted Islam. At the same time, he’s maintained the secular structure of the Constitution. And what’s been very important is, he’s respected democratic institutions, brought in recognition of the European convention of human rights, and has a thriving opposition press.
Amsterdam claimed the vibrancy of Turkey’s opposition media is strongly contrary to the way Western press reports portray Erdogan’s cracking down on free speech.
“There is a thriving opposition press, which is not to mean there haven’t been issues with press freedom on individual cases,” he allowed. “There have been. But if you read Hurriyet and some of the other opposition papers, I would argue their criticism of Erdogan is perhaps even more robust than we have here in the United States.”
Bannon argued that when Americans read reports of Erdogan’s post-coup crackdowns and purges, “the first image that comes to mind isn’t Ronald Reagan.”
“Ronald Reagan didn’t have to deal with a Gülenist cult that, in Turkey, have literally set up a separate structure within the State,” Amsterdam countered.
Bannon noted how Westerners find it alarming that a NATO ally could have such a pervasive, deep-rooted conspiracy, capable of suddenly placing the elected President in mortal peril.
“The good news that we have to focus on is that the coup was repulsed by the people of Turkey,” Amsterdam said. “Which, I think, shows more than anything the democratic nature of the populace of Turkey, and their support for the institutions of democracy in Turkey. That’s the good news.” He added, “And the point I was making was that The New York Times in an article recently reported that, even post-coup, investment is flooding into Turkey.”
“I think what’s important, in terms of the army, was the army held fast. You had factions of the army which were following Gülen, but the main leaders of the army, the people at the highest level, held absolutely to the institutional structure that exists in Turkey, and I think that’s at least some comfort,” he added.
Amsterdam said the Turkish government has two specific requests of the United States:
One, to finally investigate and deal with these 150 schools, and the power of the Gülen movement in the United States, and additionally, to act under the extradition treaty that exists between the two countries, and deal with this individual whose actions led to a hundred-billion dollars in damage to the economy, let alone the political situation in Turkey.
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