Suspected coup soldier seeking asylum in Greek Cyprus meets with two Gülenists
Ömer Bilge – NICOSIA
A soldier who has been seeking asylum from Greek Cyprus after fleeing Turkey over his suspected links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) has met with two other FETÖ members in Larnaca.
Captain Kadir Karaman, whose identity was kept secret until recently, has been staying in his 31-meter-long sailboat called “Sanchez” docked in the Larnaca marina after arriving in Greek Cyprus with his wife, who is of Kazakh origin, on Oct. 2.
According to information obtained by daily Hürriyet, Karaman was assigned to the Southern Sea Area Command in the southern province of Mersin in June and is suspected of being one of the encrypted soldiers in the movement by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Karaman reportedly spoke on the phone with a Gülenist “imam,” who was sought as part of an investigation launched into FETÖ in the western province of İzmir, through payphone a short while ago.
“Imam,” which traditionally refers to a religious public worker, is a term used by the Gülenist organization to mark local leadership.
Authorities then determined the identity of Karaman and a detention warrant was issued, after which his house was searched on Sept. 29, prompting the captain to flee the country.
“Turkish police carried out a search in my house after a warrant was issued. If they catch me, they’ll send me to jail,” Karaman from Naval Forces said in his initial testimony.
“My name was included in the list of FETÖ member officers as part of the investigations launched after the July 15 coup attempt. Turkish police carried out searches in my house late on Sept. 29 after an arrest warrant was issued, so I fled via Mersin with my wife. If I had stayed in Turkey, I would have been arrested and never released. I want to use my right to political asylum,” he added.
Karaman and his wife are currently under protection of Greek Cypriot intelligence in the marina and police took strict security measures around the area.
Even though intelligence authorities have offered the couple to stay in a secret house, Karaman chose to stay in the boat.
Greek Cypriot sources have said the captain met with two Gülenist Turks the next day after arriving in the marina. The two Gülenists, whose identities were not disclosed, arrived in Larnaca from Athens and held a brief meeting with Karaman upon his approval.
According to Greek Cypriot media, Greek Cypriot intelligence authorities have been content with Karaman’s cooperation.
Meanwhile, Kathimerini and Fileleftheros newspapers reported Karaman entered the marina without a passport and will “most probably” be granted political asylum.
The Greek Cypriot media also pointed out a Turkish captain has sought asylum from Greek Cyprus for the first time and that media acted “in an inexperienced way.”
“We should have kept this a secret,” several reports read in Greek Cypriot media.
Moreover, Karaman was seen to have deleted all of the pictures and information from his social media account.