What do the US’s steps on Kemal Batmaz imply?
One cannot view the United States’ sharing of important evidence, which could seriously impact the most important trial on the July 2016 coup attempt, as an ordinary judicial topic.
We are talking about a document showing Kemal Batmaz’s statement to customs officials that he “will be staying with Imam Fethullah Gülen in Pennsylvania” during the interrogation he was subjected to upon his arrival to the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2016.
This development effectively amounts to the U.S. government confirming the connection between Gülen and an individual who is certain to have been at the coup attempt’s command center - the Akıncı Air Base’s 143th Fleet - on July 15, 2016. Batmaz was detained by the authorities near the base on the day after the botched coup attempt.
One of the main contentions in the Akıncı base indictment is that number two suspect Adil Öksüz and number three suspect Batmaz’s visit to the U.S. was conducted in order to “inform [number one suspect] Gülen about the coup preparations.”
According to the indictment, the duo’s visit to the U.S. on July 11-13, 2016 intended to “get the last instruction from Gülen.” In this regard, the verification of the connection between Batmaz and Gülen through official U.S. documents strongly supports prosecutor Ramazan
Dinç’s argument in the indictment. The question we need to focus on here is this: From the start, U.S. officials had the document on Batmaz in their hands. Despite Turkey’s attempts in Washington to shed light on the coup suspects’ activities in the U.S., the administration had only limited cooperation with Turkey and only shared this document on Sept. 8.
The U.S. did not take any steps other than sharing Öksüz and Batmaz’s pictures taken at the customs gate at New York’s Kennedy Airport on July 11, 2016. These pictures can be found on the 383rd page of the indictment.
However, it seems that Washington has taken a new stance with this latest development. The question of why it did not take such a step in the previous 14 months needs to be answered. Surely it at least prompts the question of whether other steps could have been taken in the days before the coup attempt took place. We cannot possibly know whether U.S. officials have other information regarding the connection between Pennsylvania and the coup suspects. But we can make some educated guesses.
Ever since the conflict between President Erdoğan and the Gülen network burst into the open with the network’s Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption investigations, the fact that one of the most important actors in this conflict lives in U.S. territory has pulled the U.S. administration into the debate.
Especially since the end of 2013, the extradition demand for Gülen has been added to the inventory of U.S.-Turkey relations – a dialogue already consisting of discussions on hot topics such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Gülen’s extradition has been on the agenda in all dialogues Erdoğan has held in recent years with former President Barack Obama and his successor Donald Trump. Because the issue remains unresolved, it continues to strain already-weakening U.S.-Turkey relations.
Bilateral ties have been at the mercy of the Gülen file for a long time.
The U.S.’s relationship with Turkey is a strategic one. As the world’s largest power, Washington has to maintain a close relationship with Turkey in order to protect its strategic interests in the region. This is also an issue of homeland security for the U.S.
So we can safely assume that the U.S. does not just see Gülen’s activities in Pennsylvania as simply those of another regular individual.
We can assume that U.S. departments are unlikely to overlook most activities in the mansion in Pennsylvania where Gülen lives.
Whatever happens, with the sharing of intelligence on Batmaz the U.S. administration seems to be making a more realistic and objective evaluation about who was responsible for Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt. Could this step be a sign that the U.S. administration recognizes the need to enter into closer cooperation with Turkey on the Gülen file in the coming period? We will have to wait a little longer to see that.