Ankara mayor: Top officials at risk of assassinations

Ankara mayor: Top officials at risk of assassinations

ANKARA – Agence France-Presse
Ankara mayor: Top officials at risk of assassinations

AFP photo

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek fears Turkey is entering a period where top officials could be at risk of assassination.

Gökçek, mayor for over 22 years and one of the senior figures in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), also told AFP in an interview the United States must extradite U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey to remove any suspicion that Washington was involved in the failed July 15 coup attempt.

Gökçek said Gülen’s role in Turkey went back to the premierships of Bülent Ecevit in the 1970s and admitted the AKP had mistakenly formed an alliance with his similarly Islamic-leaning supporters when it first came to power in 2002.

“But their biggest aim was to use us and to get their own people inside the army,” he said.

Gökçek, one of the most outspoken senior figures in the AKP who regularly updates 3.4 million followers on Twitter with his views, said there would no longer be a risk of coups in Turkey but rather of assassinations.

“Politicians will be at risk of assassinations... of course I have increased my security,” he said.

The mayor was quick to take to Twitter on the night of the coup attempt, describing it as a Gülen-backed coup minutes after the first reports emerged and then calling all supporters out into the streets.

He claims to have been number six on a hit list - topped by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - to be killed by Gülen followers after the power grab.

Turkey blames Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania, for masterminding the coup attempt, saying he assiduously built up a “parallel state” with followers in all institutions. 

With some officials now even alleging that Washington could have had a hand in the putsch, Ankara wants the United States to send back Gülen to face trial in the country he left in 1999.

“For America to prove it is not behind the coup, there is only one thing to do, deliver (him) to Turkey,” Gökçek told AFP.

He claimed that the U.S. had already given “signals” it was involved in the coup after a top American general expressed concern that many of Washington’s former Turkish military interlocutors were now in jail.

“How will it be known whether America is or is not involved in this business? If they deliver [Gülen] there is no problem. But if they don’t the United States will not escape from the dock.”

Gökçek, who had previously suggested Gülen was hypnotizing people and used genies to control them, expressed bewilderment that Washington had tolerated the cleric’s presence and allowed his foundations to open up schools in the U.S.

“For America to tolerate this, it seems there are connections to FETÖ,” he said, referring to what is called the Fethullah Terror Organization.

Gökçek also said he was “absolutely in favor” of the death penalty for the coup plotters and brushed off warnings from the European Union that reinstating capital punishment could end Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the bloc.

If Turkey is told it can’t enter the EU, “well I swear to God, we don’t care. Let us not enter,” said Gökçek, adding that he had been a champion of EU integration in the past.

“When we were close, you were far away. Europe is not the only place in the world... We will find others.”

He said if parliament passed a law reversing the 2004 death penalty abolition, it should then be put to a referendum.

“The world can then see if the people want it or not.”