U.S.-based Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, the alleged leader of a purported illegal organization, should come to Turkey to deliver testimony instead of giving a deposition before a U.S. court, the Turkish government has said.
“Making a decision about a deposition is not in our authority. However, it would be more appropriate if Fethullah Gülen came to Turkey than if he gave a deposition,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said Dec. 23, referring to a lawyer for Gülen who said his client’s testimony could be sent through a deposition in an ongoing case, one of the many cases against the ally-turned-nemesis of both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“In prosecuting, the principle of face-to-face contact is essential. There are a lot of daily flights between Turkey and America, and as far as I know, he has no health problem either,” Bozdağ said. “Instead of a deposition, let him come to Turkey, directly appear before the court and respond face to face to questions posed by the judge, the prosecutor or the authorities - it would be more appropriate for him,” Bozdağ said.
“In my opinion, this is the right thing to do. At the moment, there is no obstacle to doing so” he said.
“Turkey is a democratic state based on the rule of law. Let him seek his rights here,” he said.
Gülen is the top suspect in numerous cases involving the “Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ)/Parallel State Structure (PDY),” an alleged organization led by him, which both Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of exploiting the judiciary and state institutions to achieve their goals.
Operations targeting the Gülenists have continued unabated since a parliamentary election won convincingly on Nov. 1 by the AKP.
Gülen was formerly an ally of Erdoğan and was believed to have wielded considerable influence in the judiciary and the civil service.
Erdoğan turned against the cleric and his followers, accusing them of forming a “parallel state” after police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gülen opened a corruption investigation into Erdoğan’s inner circle in 2013.
Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999 and is the subject of arrest warrants in Turkey. A prosecutor is seeking a prison sentence of up to 34 years for Gülen on allegations that he sought to topple Erdoğan. Gülen denies the allegations.