A pro-government columnist in Turkey claimed on Thursday that the Turkish authorities considered assassinating Gulenists living in exile.
The columnist suggested that they were reluctant to do so due to the likely diplomatic crisis with Western governments, similar to that which happened following Skripal case in the United Kingdom.
Tunca Bengin, a columnist from the pro-government daily Milliyet, claimed that the country’s intelligence service (MIT) had considered executing Gulen movement affiliates abroad, citing a high ranking MIT official.
The Gulen movement, led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.
Ankara accuses Gulen of masterminding the failed 2016 coup.
Turkey’s government has been pursuing a relentless crackdown on the movement since then, sacking more than 150,000 people from government posts while prosecuting half a million, according to government figures.
Bengin also refers to the 100 cases where MIT abducted Turkish nationals on foreign soil and brought them to Turkey, boasting about the intelligence service’s capabilities.
In February this year, Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yavuz Selim Kiran said that his government managed to bring back more than a 100 Gulenists from abroad.
“They have MIT breathing down their neck. Furthermore, neutralizing them where they are is being discussed,” Bengin wrote in his column.
“They should be punished,” Bengin quoted his anonymous source as saying, “…the reckoning with these [Gulenists] must be pursued to the bitter end.”
Correctiv, a Germany-based non-profit newsroom, put forth a research report named #blacksitesturkey to the Council of Europe in December 2018, displaying the scope of MIT’s international hijacking program.
According to the report, MIT not only conducts abductions in many foreign countries but also holds some of the detainees in extrajudicial detention facilities to interrogate them using torture.
“We will punish them in a way that they will beg us to slaughter them to stop their suffering. We will let them beg for death,” vowed Nihat Zeybekci, a former minister from the ruling AK Party following the coup bid which resulted in the death of more than 250 people, injuring more than 2,000.
Currently, at least 6 individuals, all of them alleged Gulenists, are missing in Turkey.
They are believed to be kidnapped by state officials. Several of the cases contain the evidence backing the allegations such as eye-witnesses and camera footage, however, despite the efforts of families and rights activists, authorities have failed to provide a coherent explanation surrounding the disappearances.
According to Bengin’s article, the MIT official took a step further and claimed that assassinations are possible and could be made with ease, but not were plausible due to the diplomatic backlash it would unleash.
“It is possible [assassinating Gulenists] but it would create a diplomatic crisis. What happened between Russia and the UK is out there. The following might be possible; You can find people there to do your bidding but that would be undercover. Some civilians can do that, meaning that you can command a middle-man to do it. However, later on, those middle-men might give you trouble,” Bengin quoted his source’s answer.
Freedom House reporter, Nate Schenkkan, described the extraordinary renditions carried out by Turkey since the 2016 coup attempt as an ongoing “transnational repression” campaign, in his January 2018 article published by Foreign Affairs.
Alleged state agents abducted Turkish nationals with ties to the Gulen movement from countries like Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Gabon, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine, according to several reports by rights groups.
Human Rights Watch remarked in its 2019 report that Turkish agents worked with local security services to bring alleged Gulenists back to Turkey.