Thursday

30th Mar 2017

Gulen did not order Turkey coup, EU spies say

  • Fethullah Gulen fled Turkey in 1999 (Photo: Reuters)

Exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen did not order the coup in Turkey, a leaked document from EU intelligence services says.

The document, written by the EU’s intelligence-sharing unit, Intcen, also says a post-coup purge of supposed Gulen supporters led by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was designed to deepen his grip on power.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Erdogan had prepared the post-coup crackdown well in advace (Photo: Reuters)

The revelations shed light on the EU’s reaction to the failed coup, and show how Europe's intelligence agencies regard Gulen as the “master” of an “anti-Semitic and anti-Christian” movement.

They also put an unwelcome spotlight on Intcen.

“It is likely that a group of officers comprising Gulenists, Kemalists, opponents of the AKP, and opportunists was behind the coup. It is unlikely that Gulen himself played a role,” the document said.

“It is unlikely that Gulen really had the capabilities and capacities to take such steps.”

Kemalists are secularist Turks who oppose the Islamist views of Erdogan’s AKP political party.

The EU intelligence report said individual Gulenist military officers, who did not rank above lieutenant or captain, might have felt “under pressure” to join the coup attempt in July because they knew that Erdogan had anyway planned to go after them in August.

The report said his “upcoming purge” would have seen them being prosecuted for terrorist offences.

The EU report said Erdogan was trying to dismantle Gulen’s movement in Turkey because it was his “one and only real rival” in his bid to rule the country via “a full presidential system”.

It also said he “exploited” the coup to launch a wider “repressive campaign against the opponents of the AKP” for the sake of “personal ambitions”.

It said that the MIT, Turkey’s intelligence service, began compiling lists of “troublesome individuals” years ago.

It said the lists also contained the names of “civil activists” who took part in anti-Erdogan protests in Gezi Park, Istanbul, in 2013.

“The huge wave of arrests in the days following the coup attempt was already previously prepared. The coup was just a catalyst for the crackdown prepared in advance,” the intelligence report said.

Lukewarm EU

Intcen is a branch of the EU foreign service in which seconded intelligence officers from EU states share information.

It filed the six-page report, entitled Turkey - The Impact of the Gulenist Movement, on 24 August last year to senior EU officials and to member states’ ambassadors in Brussels.

The classified document was first uncovered by The Times, a British newspaper, on Tuesday (17 January).

The views in the leaked document, also seen by EUobserver, were repeated almost word for word by Johannes Hahn, the EU commissioner dealing with Turkey, in his reaction to the coup.

He said at the time that it looked “like something that had been prepared. That the lists [of alleged Gulenists] are available [so soon] after the events indicates that this was prepared and that at a certain moment it should be used”.

Subsequent EU statements were also lukewarm toward Erdogan.

The bloc called for restraint, especially when his purge spread to opposition MPs and the media, prompting furious responses from the Turkish president.

The master

The EU leak comes at a time when Turkey is asking the US to extradite Gulen.

Although the intelligence report exonerated him over the coup, it did not paint him in a favourable light.

The report said teachings published in his name “on the surface … propagate tolerance”, but “at the same time, Islamic scholars expert in usage of language and symbols recognise that they are expressly anti-Semitic and anti-Christian”.

It said Gulen was the “master” of a “worldwide” structure that had branches in some 100 countries in Europe, north and South America, Asia, and Africa.

It said his “orders” were “enforced” by “special imams” and by “convinced” followers who “infiltrated” state institutions.

It said Gulenists had 160 elite schools around the world where they groomed students.

It said the best students were offered special teaching sessions, called Houses of Light, “in the evening … in apartments, to small groups without state control”.

Leak fallout

The leak is an embarrassment for the EU foreign service at a time when it is trying to galvanise EU security cooperation.

The Intcen report was marked “confidential”, meaning, in the EU’s own literature, that it could prompt "formal protest or other sanctions" by non-EU countries and "damage" EU "security or intelligence operations" if it got out.

The document did not reveal its sources, and used formulas such as "according to intelligence", but it was marked “not releasable and not to be disclosed to third states and international organisations”.

It was meant to be sent via encrypted channels or kept in paper form in “secure conditions”.

Its disclosure could harm EU-Turkey and US-Turkey relations at a time when Erdogan is building closer ties with Russia.

It could also harm Intcen, if member states stop trusting the EU office to keep their secrets.

Gulen faithful at work in EU capital

Persecuted in Turkey as the alleged authors of the July putsch, the followers of Islamic teacher Fethullah Gulen are highly active in the EU capital.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

German-Turkish tensions rise over cancelled campaign events

Two German towns cancelled campaign events by Turkish ministers to rally support for Erdogan's consitutional reform amid escalating tensions between the two countries over the detention of a prominent German-Turkish journalist.

Interview

Let's not lecture Trump, says top German MP

Europeans need to propose "projects of common interest" to the US president to preserve "Western unity" on Russia, Norbert Roettgen, the chair of Bundestag's foreign affairs committee said.

News in Brief

  1. UK publishes 'Great Repeal Bill' plan to replace EU laws
  2. Scots share May's vision for Brexit deal, survey says
  3. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  4. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  5. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  6. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  7. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  8. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  2. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  3. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  5. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  6. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  7. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  9. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  10. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  11. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Latest News

  1. Hungary attempts to stifle Soros-founded university in Budapest
  2. European right shows divisions on EU values after Brexit
  3. Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks
  4. Russia building 'arc of iron' around Europe
  5. Französische und deutsche Wahlen 'entscheidend' für Putin
  6. EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy
  7. MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal
  8. MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  2. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  3. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change
  5. European Free AllianceSupporting Artur Mas: Democracy and Freedom Cannot Be Convicted
  6. UNICEFSyria Conflict 6 Years On: Children's Suffering at Its Worst
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsDomestic Violence in Tajikistan: Time to Right the Wrongs
  8. European Trust SummitCorporate Strategy and Public Affairs in a Low-Trust World - Conference 31 May
  9. Malta EU 2017Agreement Reached to Involve Consumers in Financial Services Policymaking
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cities Gather Against Violent Extremism & Introduce Nordic Safe Cities
  11. World VisionFears and Dreams of Syria's Children and Their Peers Around the World
  12. Mission of China to the EUEU Window Chinese Government Academic Scholarship 2017/18 - Apply Now