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Turkey seeks extradition of 2016 coup’s ‘disappearing imam’

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wave national flags during a rally for the upcoming referendum in Konya, Turkey, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey has asked Germany to extradite Adil Oksuz, a key suspect in the 2016 attempted coup attempt that tried to unseat President Racep Tayyip Erdogan.
Oksuz is seen as Turkey’s second most wanted man after exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen.

It may seem curious that Oksuz – who was previously an obscure theology lecturer – is seen as so significant. This so-called “disappearing imam” is merely suspected to be in Germany; indeed Berlin’s foreign ministry has said that it does not know if Oksuz is there or not.

He is seen seen as the missing link in the Turkish government’s official narrative of the July 2016 attempted coup.

Emre Demir – founder of Turkey-focused magazine Zaman – says that Oksuz is widey considered a “Gulenist” and that he “appeared as the linchpin in the Turkish government’s official narrative, which is that the coup plot was masterminded by Fetullah Gulen.

Oksuz was one of few civilians arrested near the airbase on the morning after the coup began.

Two days after his arrest he was released on the order of a judge. Once free he disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown.

So basically he appears to be the guy who connects Gulen and the Gulen movement to the coup attempt.”

Suspicious events

Some people have said that this seems like tenuous evidence that Oksuz was involved in the coup. And the leader of Turkey’s main secular opposition party has even said that Oksuz was working for Turkey’s spy agency.

Nothing has been proven, but Demir argues that what happened to Oksuz after the coup looks suspicious. “Why people think he was working for the government: first of all, he didn’t get arrested, which was incredible.

The second reason is that on the second day of his detention, the chief of staff to the prime minister went to see Oksuz in detention – which is all also interesting because according to Turkish law, if a Turkish secret service member of staff gets arrested, the court has to grant permission from the prime minister’s office to put him on trial, and if the prime minister doesn’t give permission, then the judge can’t arrest him.

There are also a lot of little details – like that the police found a GPS wire in the pocket of Adil Oksuz, and this GPS wire is only used by Turkish secret service members.”

Damaged Turkish-German relations

Turkey’s request for Germany to extradite Oksuz has not exactly had a positive effect on Turkish-German relations. But ties between the two countries were already damaged.

“100 Turkish military officers and police officers, judges etc were seeking exile in Germany (during the purges in Turkey after the attempted coup)”, says Demir. “Turkey has been trying to extradite them for months but Germany has refused – and that created a lot of tensions.

“After that, Germany officially claimed that they didn’t believe the Turkish government’s version of events” that Gulen was behind the attempted coup.

Yesterday Erdogan made his views on the current German government clear: he called on Germans of Turkish descent not to vote for three parties in next month’s elections, including Angela Merkel’s CDU.

That is while the role, if there was one, of Adil Oksuz in last year’s coup attempt remains very unclear.