Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Bulent Meric on Wednesday called for a crackdown in Japan on Turkish businesses he accuses of raising funds for U.S.-based fugitive cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara accuses Gulen of orchestrating Friday’s failed coup.
Meric said the global Gulen Movement, a body that espouses liberal Islamic social thought, arrived in Japan in the 1990s. He said the movement engages in “illegal activities” and raises funds through trading and educational businesses in Japan.
Ankara dubs the movement “FETO,” which in Turkish means the Gulenist Terror Organization.
“We have already asked the Japanese government to suspend their activities,” Meric told an audience at the Japan National Press Club. “If Tokyo allows their activities in Japan, it is tolerating and protecting the organization that is trying to change the government system in Turkey.”
He named international schools and language schools in Sendai, Yokohama and Tokyo.
A diplomatic source confirmed that Japan had received such a request from Ankara sometime before Friday’s failed putsch but said the firms it named do not appear to be engaged in illegal activities.
While critics accuse Erdogan of pushing to entrench Islamic values in public life, he has said he is comitted to secularism. Gulenists believe in a secular government. They are particularly active in education.
The movement is said to have a presence in more than 120 countries where it runs a range of tuition facilities. The cleric himself lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
The ambassador’s remarks come at a time when the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is conducting massive purges. The sackings appear to target suspected Gulen supporters.
While nations condemned the coup attempt, they have expressed concern at the suspensions and arrests of thousands of military officers, police, teachers and journalists. On Monday the European Union’s foreign policy chief urged Turkey to observe the rule of law.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday said his administration has filed a formal extradition request for Gulen, supporting it with four dossiers that purport to show his involvement with the coup. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said a decision to extradite Gulen would require clear proof of wrongdoing.
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