S?leyman G?k?e: Evidence against Gulen Will Be Shared to Best Possible Extent
Novinite has spoken to Turkey's Ambassador to Bulgaria, H.E. S?leyman G?k?e, about the failed coup attempt in his country, the arrests of alleged plotters, and the implications on Turkey's economy, security and tourism.
Mr G?k?e began working at the Turkish Foreign Ministry in 1990. His diplomatic experience includes different positions in his country's missions to Rome (1993-1996), Kabul (1996-1997), Islamabad (1997-1998), and London (2001-2004). In 2004-2005, he was a counsellor to Hikmet ?etin, the highest-level political representative of NATO in Afghanistan. Between 2007 and 2011, he was Counsellor-Minister and Deputy Head of Mission in Washington, DC. Bulgaria became his first ambassadorial assignment in 2013.
Your Excellency, three weeks on from the coup attempt, is Turkey still working to respond to the perpetrators, or it believes the threat has been completely addressed? Has the number of people with any kind of involvement been already established?
Thank you for this opportunity, and it is good to have a reasonable, straightforward conversation. Yes, it has been almost three weeks from the coup attempt. The situation is under control. The initial response of authorities was to calm down the situation, to have everything back to normal. I think one should be cautious to say or argue this threat has been completely fended off, because it is a large-scale attempt to take over the whole state and the state structures. Yes, we are working very hard and a lot of things have been done to normalize the situation. Banks, the stock market, businesses and everything else were opened on 18 July, Monday, just two days later, and that is quite successful. The real economy is up and running. Nothing to worry about, precautions taken, tourism is OK, commercial activity is fine, with people in their offices, life back to normal; as much as it can be.
But this whole effort will continue for a while, and as you know a state of emergency was announced and approved by the Parliament, which is going to be valid for 3 months, during which investigations and efficient fast-track interrogations will be launched so as not to extend this period. A lot of people are dismissed from active duty as you know well; but this dismissal does not amount to arrest or custody. They are off active duty as a precautionary measure for the safety and security of all interrogation and the entire legal process. We have notified the Council of Europe accordingly in regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, and this has been much discussed. This state of emergency, as you know, is applicable per request of governments under extraordinary circumstances - and the current ones are. After the state of emergency legal remedies are in place, and people who feel like doing so can apply to the courts, including the right of individual application with the Constitutional Court - which is quite an advanced system in Turkey, but not possible in many countries.
Mentioning the dismissals - but also the arrests of people carried out in the past weeks – tens of thousands have been affected by the government's response. Is there evidence all of them were complicit in the coup attempt? Secondly, will people whose guilt is not proven be able to return to work?
I cannot speculate on the legal process, it is still too early. We have been for only two weeks into this state of emergency. All I can say is this: dismissals are taken by administrative decision. Custodies are under the prosecutors' orders and arrests only by court order. There is quite a structure for this. It is not arbitrary, it is under the law and has been monitored and observed. The operation is also subject to parliamentary monitoring.
Evidence is unearthed. Testimonies as well, there are quite a pile of them, taken and given by the coup plotters. That is used - it works like a chain reaction - and you just come to conclusions that certain people are involved, at different degrees of course.
But the involvement of certain segments of society, because the measures span on a large number of social groups, raises questions. Health ministry officials or university deans - how could such people be complicit for instance?
This is more than a coup. This amounts to a violent attempt to take over the whole state structure. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education - you know about all the health tests and everything in the cadet schools? You know about the stolen or leaked examination questions and answers given to all of these people. There are people who are related and working for this organizations. The authorities emphasize a large number of Fetullah G?len organization members and supporters were admitted to cadet schools by turning down other applications as unfit on the grounds of fake health certificates. Furthermore, the questions and answers of entry exams were leaked to the supporters in question.
If we return to the main person blamed by Turkey, Mr Fethullah G?len, in an interview with CNN he said he would "bend his neck" and return to his homeland if there was evidence of his participation. Turkey for its part says it does have evidence. Is Turkey willing to make it public?
I cannot speak on behalf of the Turkish authorities, but some of it has been already made public and every different kind of evidence. I am not really interested in what Mr G?len has been arguing, because he is known with all this ulterior trivialism. And there have been many examples available on the Internet.
I think this is not what he was actually meaning. He would have come to Turkey earlier had it been the case, years ago. He's been living outside Turkey since 1997, in the first place. Secondly, evidences have been collected and we have shared these evidences with foreign authorities. Some of them have been shared with the public through testimony and other kinds of evidence as well. This has also been in discussion within the Turkish public domain. And it ranges from many different kinds of things - documents, other physical evidence, money, banknotes, correspondences, communications, how they got organized, how they communicated orders within the ranks of the Turkish Armed Forces or the judiciary or other officials. I think they will be shared to the best possible extent within the coming days, but also for the safety and integrity of the interrogation process. I think I wouldn't expect them to be released in their entirety.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an was quoted by Reuters as saying in an interview that Mr G?len was a “pawn” and others were masterminds. Could you elaborate on that? Is this a reference to the United States and other Western countries?
I would refrain from elaborating on that because it is a statement of our president. So, I think it sends a very strong political message, and that political message obviously must have been received by all concerned.
The opposition CHP party’s leader Kemal K?l??daro?lu has criticized the government for failing to react to the threat allegedly posed by G?lenists. President Erdo?an himself apologized on Wednesday for not having been able to see earlier the scope and magnitude of the action against the state. Did your country actually know the names of all G?len supporters in the media, universities, public sector prior to the coup attempt?
The answer is, both yes, and no. No, because had they known all this, this could be prevented. It's obvious. Partially yes, I would say, in a different context. This is not new, that the G?lenists have always felt insecure and prosecuted in Turkey for decades. So they went into clandestine, underground infiltration into the state institutions through this “Golden Generation” [a reference, used by the G?len movement itself, to thousands of people whose education is strongly tied to his network of schools] that has been raised in these schools and everything else. But this is not the first time, no; they have been prosecuted. I am not talking about the current government. They were prosecuted over several decades.
I cannot offer comments on remarks by political leaders, but there is another issue. You must recall one thing. In the past quite a number of Turkish politicians, 20 years ago for instance, were quick to endorse Fethullah G?len, including the prominent leader of CHP, B?lent Ecevit. Other parties also did, there is a long list. This shows that this movement was not seen or understood or analyzed well, and appreciated by a lot of people, how violent and dangerous it can get if it comes to the point of making a decision to take over the constitutional order by its own means. That is, I think, why our President said we didn't fully grasp the magnitude. I think he is right and accurate. Not that anything was not done.
Reshuffles are currently ongoing in Turkey's military, with senior officers replaced and civilian oversight brought into the armed forces. What is the impact of this on the army's ability to protect Turkey as it is addressing painful security issues and trying to counter threats such as the Islamic State group or DAESH, the PKK and others?
Turkey has been trying to address threats posed by really violent terrorist organizations. However, Turkey is a reference country - a central country and a strong one. The coup interrogations and investigations, the dismissals or custodies or arrests are related to a very small percentage of the Turkish Armed Forces, which is the good news. It is about 1.5% of the whole rank and file. It is limited to certain groups within the armed forces, certain force commands. First, it has been contained, now it's being addressed.
I do not see an immediate deficiency or weakness occurring, but it is important to diagnose and see the prognosis of how this might develop, and, of course, very quick measures are taken. Obviously, this state of emergency serves for that purpose as well.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevl?t ?avu?o?lu said on Sunday that your country would demand the extradition of a G?len supporter from Bulgaria. Could you elaborate on that? How is he allegedly complicit in the coup attempt and is he the only one residing or having resided in Bulgaria?
For the integrity of this whole process I think I'd rather refrain from commenting on this; because this is a serious matter and all I can say is that we are engaged in intense talks with Bulgarian authorities on these and related matters.
Are there any estimates if the number of visits to your country, including those from Bulgaria, have already been affected by the developments, or it is too early to say?
I do not have concrete figures. It may be too early to say, but all I can say is that we do not see a big fluctuation, perhaps some conjunctural change but as people realize, business is back to usual and everything else, it will go back to the previous situation before this thing occurred. But as far as I know, and as far as the figures I gather, there is no big change. Certainly there could be some changes, but I think it's important to put it into perspective.
I can tell everybody that Turkey is safe and secure and it stays a lovely holiday destination, so I would encourage everybody not to reconsider their plans and take their vacations as planed.
The Interior Ministry of Bulgaria has reported a rising migratory pressure on the country's borders. With Turkey still dealing with the aftermath of the coup attempt, could we expect that it is shifting its focus from the migrant crisis deal it reached with the EU, resulting in a renewed inflow of migrants?
First of all, had the coup attempt succeeded, I think we would have reasons to worry about as it would create a very chaotic situation. I think everyone with a reasonable mind realizes this. As far as we are concerned, we are observing the situation on our common border, and we don't see anything unusual or strikingly different from the usual movements and everything else. So, we are unaware of rising migratory pressure on the country's borders. No, we don't see it. I'm also reading the comments of the Interior Ministry from the press. Let be loud and clear: we don't see any extraordinary movements. I think these people might be coming from elsewhere, but not from Turkey. I do not know where, but I can tell you where they are not coming from, and that is Turkey.
There is also one other thing: I find it rather very strange why this migratory pressure, rising, decreasing, or anything else, has become a favourite national pastime that everybody enjoys talking about on a daily basis, whether on, or off the record, in a light hearted manner, and as if this is a conversation piece.
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