EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove has said that the EU does not believe that FETO, the network of U.S-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, is a terrorist organisation There needs to be “substantive” evidence that could change its opinion, he said.
Turkey has, since the attempted coup last July, accused its NATO allies – the US and Germany of being more concerned about the crackdown which followed the failed coup, rather than bringing Gulen to justice. Gulen has denied being behind the 9 July coup.
“As for FETO, we don’t see it as a terrorist organisation, and I don’t believe the EU is likely to change its position soon,” Kerchove said.
“You need not only circumstantial evidence – like just downloading an app – but concrete substantive data which shows that they were involved...,” he told Reuters in an interview cleared for publication on Thursday.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has been accused by humans rights groups and some EU officials of using the crackdown to silence dissent in Turkey, a charge Ankara denies. It claims that the scale of the clampdown is justified because the Gulen network threatens national security.
Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party and his movement, ran schools, banks and media outlets in Turkey until the two men had a public falling-out in 2013.
Turkish authorities have detained some 50,000 people, including teachers, police officers, journalists and U.S. consular staff have been detained for alleged links to Gulen’s network. They have also dismissed some 150,000 from their jobs.
A number of people have been detained for downloading ByLock, a messaging app the government says was used by the coup plotters. While others have been detained for having had telephone conversations with ByLock users.
Turkey has sent 84 boxes of documents to the USA to back up its demand that Gulen, a US resident, be extradited to Turkey. However, Turkey’s envoy to Washington admits that it lacks concrete evidence linking Gulen to the attempted coup.
“The decision on extradition is in the hands of all member states, and most of the time the judiciary, the independent judiciary, and they need hard evidence,” Kerchove said.