Turkey slams description of FETÖ head in US report
Turkey on June 22 said it is “hypocritical” to call head of FETÖ -- a group behind the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey -- a “Muslim cleric and political figure” in a report released by the U.S. State Department.
“In the "2018 Report on International Religious Freedom" […] the fact that the leader of FETÖ terrorist organization is referred to as a "Muslim cleric and political figure" is a clear indicator of the ulterior motives and the circles behind it,” said Hami Aksoy, the spokesman for the Turkish Foreign
Ministry, in a statement.
“Such portrayal of the leader of the terrorist organization which murdered 251 of our citizens is equal to turning a blind eye to the 15 July heinous coup attempt or supporting it,” Aksoy added.
The U.S. State Department had released the International Religious Freedom Report for 2018 on Friday.
“It is a very telling example of hypocritical approach for a country who pretends to be the defender of democracy in the world to define those behind the coup attempt against an ally democracy as innocent religious cleric,” the statement said.
The FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured.
Turkey accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
The statement also condemned the report for citing the conviction of the American pastor Andrew Brunson as a violation of religious freedom.
"Pastor Brunson was convicted because of his affiliation with terrorism, not because of his faith," it said, adding: “he has returned to the U.S. after serving his time in accordance with a judicial decision, not as a result of sanctions and threats.”
"Still, covering his case extensively and presenting it as a violation of religious freedom in the report is nothing but an attempt by the US to exploit the matter and wrongfully criticize our country," the ministry spokesman added.
Brunson was arrested in December 2016 and charged in the Aegean province of Izmir with being a member of the FETÖ, the group behind a defeated coup earlier that year.
The American pastor was sentenced to a little more than three years in prison. In July 2018, it was changed to house arrest and finally in October he was released due to time served and good behavior in custody.
The statement also criticized the report for reflecting Turkey as an “anti-Semitic” country.
"The fact that the U.S. Department of State does not bring forward a single criticism about Israel's aggression towards Haram al-Sharif, one of Islam's holiest sites of worship, in the chapter on Israel of the same report while presenting the reaction in our country against Israel's killings of dozens
of Muslims in Gaza last year as "anti-Semitic rhetoric" reveals the frivolous nature of the report,” it said.
About religious minorities, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said people from different religions continue to live in peace in the country, adding that Turkey “reiterates its objective to protect and promote the freedom of religion and worship with every step it takes.”
“On the other hand, had the U.S. obtained information from minorities in Turkey beforehand, the outcome would have been a much more realistic and reputable report," the ministry statement added.