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Cablegate: Turkish Civic Society: Verdict Suspended in Case

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L ANKARA 001516

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/11/2008
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU OSCE
SUBJECT: TURKISH CIVIC SOCIETY: VERDICT SUSPENDED IN CASE
AGAINST ISLAMIC LEADER FETHULLAH GULEN

(U) Classified by Polcouns John Kunstadter; reasons 1.5 (b,d).


1. (U) An Ankara State Security Court (SSC) March 10 ruled
unanimously to postpone a verdict in the trial in absentia of
controversial Islamic philosopher Fetullah Gulen. Gulen,
indicted in 2000, faced five to 10 years imprisonment under
the Anti-Terror Law on charges of establishing an illegal
organization for the purpose of undermining the State and
establishing Islamist rule. Under the ruling, the case
against Gulen will be formally closed if he does not commit
another felony crime within five years. If Gulen is charged
with another crime during that period, the SSC could
reactivate this case and issue a verdict.


2. (C) Gulen attorney Hasan Gunaydin speculated that the SSC
postponed the verdict because the evidence in the case was
not strong enough to justify a conviction. He told Emboffs
that he and his colleagues are seeking a full acquittal in
the case, and have filed an objection to the ruling. If the
SSC refuses to revise its ruling, Gunaydin said he will file
an appeal. He did not know whether Gulen, who now resides in
the U.S., plans to return to Turkey as a result of the
ruling.


3. (C) Gulen, much more militant when he began in the early
1970's, is the spiritual leader of an Islamic movement that
officially professes to be interested in ecumenical
understanding but whose roots are intensely Islamic. The
movement works in the manner of other Islamic tarikats
(brotherhoods) but is relatively more hierarchical and
disciplined. Gulen and his followers have contacts with, and
have received public support from, a varied range of Turkish
politicians, including former President Demirel and
arch-secularist-nationalist former P.M. Ecevit. Gulen has
warm relations with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope
John Paul II. His followers have the reputation of being
truer to their word in dealings with people of other faiths
than their main rivals (Islamist former P.M. Necmettin
Erbakan's Milli Gorus (National View) movement and some
elements of the Nakshibendi tarikats, both of whom form the
core of now-ruling AK Party), for whom lying in the service
of their faith in dealings with non-Muslims is meritorious in
Allah's sight ("sevap"). The Gulen movement's wide network
of secondary schools, universities, media outlets, business
associations, and other holdings in 35 countries was
originally encouraged by the GOT, especially the MFA and
intel services, but the Kemalist State, especially the
Turkish military, defined the Gulenists as an Islamist threat
in the wake of the military's 1997 "post-modern" coup against
Erbakan's Islamist government.


4. (C) Comment: Gulen's harassment by the State appears to us
to be based on an unclear and arbitrarily-interpreted range
of evidence, although in our experience the movement in
Turkey has become secretive under the State's pressure, its
representatives are cagier with us, and its goals are
therefore more difficult to read. In addition, we have
experience that more militant Islamists have moved into some
of the Gulen structures in Turkey. Yet based on extensive
and continuing contacts with Gulenists, we conclude that
Gulen's approach is so gradualist, and his chief lieutenants
are so wary of being tarred as militants, that the movement
does not pose a clear and present danger to the State.
PEARSON

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