ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into 17 US-based individuals, including New York Senator Chuck Schumer, ex-attorney Preet Bharara and leading Turkey scholar Henri Barkey on suspicions of aiding a “terror group,” state-run media reported Saturday.
The action by the Istanbul prosecutor’s office came after a group of Turkish lawyers filed a complaint against the individual.
The lawyers accuse them of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen who, according to Ankara, orchestrated last year’s failed coup, Anadolu news agency reported.
The list of accused includes US citizens who have had involvement in Turkey issues and also Turkish citizens resident in the United States.
Among them are Bharara, a former US attorney for New York who was fired by President Donald Trump last month; the former director of the CIA, John Brennan; former top CIA official Graham Fuller; Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; and Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Also probed are U.S.-based Turkish citizens including Faruk Taban, president of the Turkic American Alliance, and Talha Sarac of the Turkish American Business Network, Anadolu reported.
The individuals are accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government” and “membership in an armed terror group,” it said.
According to Anadolu, the suspects met twice around the time of July 15 failed putsch – once on an island off Istanbul on the day of the botched putsch and the other in a restaurant in Karakoy, an Istanbul neighborhood, two days later.
Turkey accuses the movement Gulen leads of being a “terror organization” although the group insists it is a peaceful organisation promoting Islam. Gulen has denied being behind the failed coup.
The government has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Gulen, who has been living in exile there since 1999.
Some Turkish officials have repeatedly insinuated that the United States had a hand in the coup bid but this has been vehemently denied by Washington