Thursday, December 10, 2015

Alien Tort Suit Focuses On Sectarian Rivalry In Turkey

A suit seeking damages under the Alien Tort Statute was filed in a Pennsylvania federal district court this week against Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric who has lived in the United States since 1998. The complaint (full text) in Ates v. Gulen, (MD PA, filed 12/7/2015) was nominally brought by three individuals who are members of the Sunni Muslim Dogan Movement, an Anatolian offshoot of the rival Nur Movement.  However according to BuzzFeed News, the Turkish government is behind the lawsuit because Gulen is now an archrival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to the complaint:
Over the course of the past two decades, Mr. Gülen has implemented a political strategy of encouraging his followers to secure official positions within the official Turkish state apparatus – notably in police, prosecutorial and judicial positions – through whom he is able to exercise a corrupt influence in Turkish society....
Defendant intentionally ordered the coordinated, systematic attack on members of the Doğan Movement because of that group’s religious beliefs and public criticism of Defendant. Defendant ordered his co-conspirators in Turkey to use their high level positions in Turkish law enforcement to identify members of the Doğan Movement, plant evidence, and target them for arrest and incarceration.
 The complaint also alleges:
Mr. Gülen has an international following estimated to approach 10 million people. He has developed a vast network of businesses and non-governmental organizations that supply him with financial support, and he is estimated to control at least $25 billion in assets. In the United States, Mr. Gülen controls dozens of business entities and more than 120 charter schools in various states, many of which are or have been under investigation by state and federal criminal and regulatory authorities.