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World Turkey Gathered Information in the U.S. Against Its Critics

02:06  14 november  2019
02:06  14 november  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Turkey ’ s government used a Washington law firm to gather information about its critics , including residents of the U . S ., who it believed were allied with a movement that News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

Critics charge that Google has effectively abandoned its "Don't be evil" motto and that small businesses will be unable to compete against The U . S Turkey ’ s government used a Washington law firm to gather information about its critics , including residents of the U . S ., who it believed

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WASHINGTON—Turkey’s government used a Washington law firm to gather information about its critics, including residents of the U.S., who it believed were allied with a political movement that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regards as a central enemy, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The information, gathered at the behest of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, was transmitted to public prosecutors in Turkey, according to two Turkish government memorandums marked “secret.” Activists said they fear the data is being used in investigations of Mr. Erdogan’s perceived adversaries.

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WASHINGTON— Turkey ’ s government used a Washington law firm to gather information about its critics , including residents of the U . S ., who it believed were allied with a movement that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regards as a central enemy, according to documents reviewed by The Wall

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The documents underscore Ankara’s intense antipathy toward individuals and groups it sees associated with Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who leads a world-wide political movement from exile in rural Pennsylvania.

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Mr. Erdogan, who met with President Trump at the White House on Wednesday, has demanded the U.S. extradite Mr. Gulen to Turkey, accusing the cleric of being behind a 2016 coup attempt against the president. U.S. officials have said Ankara hasn’t provided sufficient proof of Mr. Gulen’s involvement, and Mr. Gulen denies having played any role in the matter.

Since the coup attempt, more than 600,000 investigations have been opened by Turkey into people considered members of movements such as Mr. Gulen’s, the State Department said earlier this year in its annual report on human rights. More than 80,000 people have been imprisoned in conditions where problems included “suspicious deaths of persons in custody; forced disappearances; torture” and other rights concerns, the State Department said.

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-- WSJ: “ Turkey Gathered Information in the U . S . Against Its Critics ,” by Warren Strobel: “The information , gathered at the behest of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, was transmitted to public prosecutors in Turkey , according to two Turkish government memorandums marked ‘secret.’

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Turkish diplomatic posts world-wide are tasked with gathering information on suspected Gulenists, particularly in Western Europe, where millions of people of Turkish origin live, said Aykan Erdemir, a former opposition member in Turkey’s parliament, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank.

To gather information on Mr. Gulen’s suspected followers in the U.S., the Turkish Embassy in 2017 turned to a Washington law firm, Saltzman & Evinch PLLC, which has long represented Ankara’s interests in the U.S.

The lengthy report the firm compiled, drawn from public databases, social media and other open-source information, was transmitted to Turkey’s Foreign and Justice ministries and from there to public prosecutors in Ankara, Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, the documents show.

In a secret Aug. 2, 2017, memo transmitting the report to Ankara’s chief public prosecutor, a senior official in Turkey’s Justice Ministry said: “The attached examples are presented in case they are seen fit to be evaluated for investigations related to FETO,” the Turkish government’s name for the Gulen movement, which it considers a terrorist organization. The memo was signed by a senior Justice Ministry official.

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It is unclear how sanctions against Turkey could affect its economy, trade, and defense procurement. U . S .- Turkey tensions in Syria have largely focused on Kurdish-led militias that have partnered with the United States against the Islamic State over Turkey ’ s strong objections.

Turkey ’ s government used a Washington law firm to gather information about its critics , including residents of the U . S ., who it believed were allied with a political movement Erdogan employed a U . S . law firm to gather information about his critics , including residents of the U . S ; one target now fears

Abdullah Bozkurt, a Turkish journalist and Erdogan critic who came across the documents, said in an email that research by a monitoring institute he heads in Stockholm showed that the information gathered by the embassy had already been “used in criminal prosecutions against people named in the report and it became part of criminal evidence in various case files.”

Mr. Bozkurt said he based his assertions on other official government documents he has obtained and shared with the Journal. The Journal couldn’t determine which if any of the Turkish investigations have been based on the material provided by the U.S. law firm.

The Turkish Embassy declined to comment. The government has repeatedly said Mr. Gulen’s group is a threat to its national security and involved in illegal activities around the world, including in the U.S.

David Saltzman, a principal in Saltzman & Evinch, said in a statement: “As is widely known, we have represented the government of Turkey in a variety of matters over the years, including federal litigation. But we are proscribed from commenting on this matter due to the attorney-client privilege.”

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The law firm is also representing Turkey’s government in civil lawsuits brought by individuals who say they were attacked by members of Mr. Erdogan’s security detail while demonstrating peacefully during the Turkish president’s last visit to Washington in May 2017.

The documents reviewed by the Journal include dozens of pages that denote authorship by Saltzman & Evinch, as well as some material profiling suspected Gulenists in the U.S. that is of uncertain origin. None of the material suggests that covert surveillance operations or electronic hacking of the groups and individuals was conducted.

The law firm’s report profiles five senior staff members of Virginia International University, based in Fairfax, Va., as well as nine people at the Washington-based Rumi Forum, which says its mission is “to foster intercultural dialogue” and is openly associated with Mr. Gulen. The report also contains information regarding two Turkish-American organizations and five other individuals.

An individual formerly associated with VIU who was named in the report declined to comment. A senior VIU official didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The Rumi Forum’s chief executive officer, Mustafa Akpinar, said it was upsetting to be included in the report, despite his public association with Mr. Gulen. Mr. Akpinar, who said he is a U.S. citizen, said he fears the added exposure could mean that relatives may be questioned and that associates in Turkey may avoid contact with him.

At the same time, Mr. Akpinar said there is nothing negative in his background. “I have nothing to hide,” he said. “They are wasting Turkish people’s money, taxpayers’ money.”

Another individual profiled in the report said he was no longer part of the Gulen movement, having broken with the group in 2017 because he was unconvinced by Mr. Gulen’s denials of involvement in the attempted coup against Mr. Erdogan.

He said he was upset to learn he was in the law firm’s report, adding: “I am a U.S. citizen and I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and Mr. Gulen’s movement were once politically allied in Turkey, but the two broke sharply beginning in 2013.

Mr. Gulen has been a legal resident of the U.S. since 2008. Turkey’s aggressive push to have the cleric extradited has influenced U.S. politics. Former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn said in a December 2017 plea agreement that the Turkish government directed private consulting work his firm did aimed at discrediting and extraditing Mr. Gulen. He didn’t face criminal charges related to that work.

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