Jailed mobster says Turkish officials wanted him to assassinate U.S. Pastor Brunson - Fox News

Turkish government officials recruited jailed mob leader Serkan Kurtuluş to assassinate a U.S. pastor at the heart of a 2018 row between the Washington and Ankara following the July 2016 coup attempt, Kurtuluş said on Monday from an Argentinian prison.

Kurtuluş told Fox News that Ankara wanted him “to find someone to kill (Andrew Brunson) and blame it on Gülenists,” after the failed putsch of July 15, 2016. The mobster said he had been approached several years before July 15 as well, but he refused.

Brunson was jailed for two years in Turkey for allegedly supporting the Gülen movement - the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Turkey maintains that the group, which it calls the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), is responsible for the failed coup attempt.

A spokesperson for the Turkish Embassy in Washington dismissed Kurtuluş’s claims claims as “total nonsense,” Fox News said, noting the jailed mob leader had “fabricated the allegation to create a false basis for his claim for asylum in Argentina.”

The mobster confirmed his appeal for asylum, saying he feared for his and his family’s lives. An embassy representative said Turkey had not started an extradition process.

Brunson was jailed for two years in Turkey for allegedly supporting the Gülen movement - the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Turkey maintains that the group, which it calls the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), is responsible for the failed coup attempt.

Kurtuluş was arrested in Argentina in June via an Interpol red notice. The mobster was allegedly involved in several non-fatal shootings of Turkish political figures in 2018 and 2019, according to witness testimony in the case against him in Turkey. He also faces charges related to organised crime and illicit weapons deals in his home country.

Serkan Kurtuluş admitted to involvement with a gang in Turkey’s western Izmir province, and alleged that ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) former Izmir charman Ahmet Kurtuluş (unrelated) was giving the orders for the gang.

Ahmet Kurtuluş was killed in May 2019, and a witness testified that the AKP politician was killed on the orders of Serkan Kurtuluş. The mobster told Fox News that he was being framed so Argentina would reject his asylum application and he would be returned to Turkey, where he feared he would be killed.

Regarding Brunson, Kurtuluş said intelligence officials had shared with him a dossier on Brunson after the coup attempt to convince him to arrange for the pastor’s death. Ahmet Kurtuluş was also in possession of the same dossier, his driver told a Turkish court in August.

The officials asked Serkan Kurtuluş “to find a young person, a religious person who would sacrifice himself for the nation,” he said.

The assassination, had it taken place, would have been blamed on the Gülen movement to convince the United States to declare FETÖ a terrorist organisation, he said. The mobster said he couldn’t outright refuse the offer, but delayed its execution because he did not want to be involved in the death of an American citizen.

Kurtuluş was not offered a specific amount of money for killing Brunson, but he had an ongoing relationship with AKP local administrators, he said, that had developed over the years through his gang. At one point, he was making between $50,000 and $100,000 per week and could mobilize 1,000 people if required, he said.

Brunson told Fox News that he did not know if Kurtuluş was telling the truth, but he “would not be surprised either way.”

Turkish courts have accused Kurtuluş of involvement with weapons smuggling in Syria and the killing of a Russian pilot in 2015. He admitted to taking money to transport wounded civilians from Syria to Turkey for treatment, but refused any connection to banned groups.