Graham Fuller, a former CIA officer, has refuted Turkish charges that he took part in last year’s abortive putsch and expressed doubt about the official Turkish narrative that U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen ordered the coup.
Turkish authorities charged him with personally involving on the scene, directing the coup attempt against the Erdogan government last year.
“According to earlier Turkish press accounts a few months ago, I was “spotted in Istanbul” and later that night, following the failure of the coup, was “exfiltrated by chopper across the border into Greece,” Mr. Fuller noted in an emailed statement to Turkey Post.
On the night of the coup, Mr. Fuller said, he was addressing a group of 100 people or so in Canada at a conference.
He said he is accused by the Turkish press of being Mr. Gulen’s “CIA handler” because he helped the cleric get a permanent legal residency in the U.S.
In an effort to debunk the litany of inconsistencies and inconvenience of facts that dogged Turkish press claims about him, he felt the need to remind that he retired from CIA 30 years ago.
He has not set his foot in Turkey in the past five years.
On his relationship with cleric Gulen, he said he never heard his name while working in Turkey in the 1960s.
“I met him exactly once in my life, long after retiring from CIA, in an interview conducted 15 years ago in Istanbul. I have never seen him since, although I have followed his movement with interest.”
He scrupulously studied Gulen Movement, an interest that raised eyebrows among secular Turkish establishment.
“I have written a good bit about Gülen’s movement HIzmet (Service) in the context of a broader study on movements in political Islam from Indonesia to Morocco in my book “The Future of Political Islam.”
“I was impressed then, and am still impressed now, that Hizmet represents one of the most progressive and tolerant visions of Islam and its contemporary social role anywhere in the Muslim world,” he told Turkey Post.
It was this positive depiction of the movement that formed the backbone of a view about Mr. Fuller as someone who backs or abets Mr. Gulen’s followers with sympathy. The Turkish government accused the Movement of orchestrating the last year’s abortive coup attempt. Bot hthe cleric and his followers strongly deny any link to the coup.
The former CIA officer refuses media depiction of himself as an avowed, unforgiving critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Far from being an opponent of Erdogan, he pointed out, citing his last book that he indeed praised the positive change brought by his government during early phaser of its rule in Turkey.
“My last book: “Turkey and the Arab Spring: Leadership in the Middle East” speaks in very positive terms about the dramatic changes that Erdogan and his colleagues introduced into Turkey starting in 2002 in nearly every sphere of life, including a bold and innovative new foreign policy vision,” he said.
“Only in the final chapter did I begin to express misgivings about the apparent onset of Erdogan’s sudden more erratic behavior, his paranoia, his loss of political touch and his megalomania.”
Another thing the Turkish media got wrong about him was his title. He was a junior officer during his service in the late 1960s in Turkey. He had never been a station chief in Ankara.
Although he gives credit to Turks’ long-held suspicion about CIA’s influence and role in critical political events of the country in the past, he does not share their latest belief about CIA involvement in the 2016 coup.
Expressing his doubts, he said that “CIA had anything to do with this pathetic, ill-conceived and amateurish, coup attempt —that unfortunately cost over 350 lives—against Erdogan in July 2016.”
A group of putschist officers commandeered tanks and troops in a failed bid to topple Mr. Erdogan’s government. Their efforts were decisively defeated by pro-Erdogan security forces and people.
The government immediately put the blame on Gulen movement without offering much evidence.
“I doubt even more that Gülen was involved in “ordering” a coup, a view shared by many European intelligence organizations and within the US government,” Mr. Fuller said.
For what it’s worth, Gülen condemned the coup attempt in the strongest terms. His movement has had had zero involvement in any political violence prior to the coup attempt accusation, he added in conclusion.