Turkey’s relentless quest to secure the extradition of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen involves a tangled web of formal and informal efforts, something that frequently places Ankara in an awkward spot and legally uncharted territory.
Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with deep roots in the U.S. and a close associate of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has recently faced charges over obscuring the real nature of his business dealings with Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn and for lying to federal authorities about his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.
Prosecutors’ charges against Alptekin in the indictment against Flynn was accepted by a court in Alexandria, Virginia, in December. The new development certainly portends a protracted headache for the Turkish businessman ahead. His involvement in a scheme to spirit Gulen from the U.S. through illegal methods did not escape the attention of the law enforcement and he now ended up in a legal indictment that would forever hover as a potential trap for the rest of his life.
Bijan Kian who appeared at a federal court in Alexandria for the same case was accused of conspiring with Alptekin to illegally influence government officials and public opinion against cleric Gulen.
But what followed after, especially in Turkey, was a case study for the feat of media manipulation at the utmost level. To cloak the charges against Alptekin and its potential legal implications from the public view, the Turkish government deftly engineered a manipulative act of great proportions.
What the Turkish public was talking was not Alptekin’s legal peril but how, thanks to “the pressure” from Ankara, the U.S. law enforcement began to mass arrests of Gulen sympathizers in various cities across the U.S. This was the theme nurtured and aired on Turkish TVs relentlessly last month. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was the steward of that media campaign. He tweeted that F.B.I. agents arrested several Gulen people in New Jersey. The F.B.I., Cavusoglu added in a jubilant tone, took steps for arrests in 15 states across the U.S.
He did not display any need to disclose the source of his information. The social media was swept with a sense of frenzy…