AKP to evaluate MPs’ photo with Gülen
Turan YILMAZ/Gizem KARAKIŞ - ANKARAThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will “evaluate” a photo of a group of party MPs posing with Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric based in the U.S. who the government says was behind Turkey’s failed coup attempt, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has said.
The photograph in question was taken during a visit by 12 AKP deputies to Gülen in Pennsylvania in 2012 and was published on the front page of daily Sözcü on Sept. 26.
Asked about reports that some AKP deputies were identified as using the ByLock app, known to be used predominantly by members of the Gülen movement, Kurtulmuş referred to the ongoing investigation into the case. He added that it was “not appropriate” to accuse some AKP politicians based on “rumors,” vowing that the AKP would take the necessary steps if the information is confirmed.
Approached by daily Hürriyet, the AKP deputies who posed in the photograph commented on the visit as follows:
Bayram Özçelik (Burdur deputy): “We made the visit based on the information of the party group executive board.”
Adem Tatlı (former Giresun deputy): “We traveled to the U.S. for the celebration of ‘Turkish Days.’ The visit was well known by the party group executive board. I visited under the information of then party group head Mahir Ünal. Others got permission from Nurettin Canikli. We would not have posed for the picture if we were visiting in secret. We spent 15 minutes there. My children were not educated in Gülen schools and we have never sent money to [the Gülen movement] or paid money into its banks.”
İsmail Tamer (Kayseri deputy): “The [Fetullahist Terrorist Organization] FETÖ detained me in 2010 and then released me. I was in Pennsylvania for the photo because I was travelling with that group [of MPs]. We traveled to the U.S for the Turkish Days. They took us to a big shopping mall in New Jersey and said FETÖ [Gülen] lived 30-40 km from the mall. They asked to perform prayers there. Our female deputes performed prayers there and that’s why they covered their heads.”
Mustafa Hamarat (former Ordu deputy): “Those attacking AKP deputies with photographs supplied by FETÖ are also targeting our president. But Muslims do not become priests just by visiting a church.”
Safiye Seymenoğlu (former Trabzon deputy): “I can’t understand why the issue is being exaggerated. Back then there was no crisis [between the AKP and Gülen] ... We visited merely out of curiosity.”
Fatoş Gürkan (former Adana deputy): “Our friends simply offered to visit Gülen. This photograph has no news value. Such news stories only service FETÖ.”
Dilek Yüksel (former Tokat deputy): “We made the visit as politicians at that time. I wish we had never paid that visit.”