U.S. indictment details links between Kemal Öksüz and Azerbaijan government

An indictment drawn up a U.S. court sheds light on the case of Kemal (Kevin) Öksüz (not to be confused with Adil Öksüz), a U.S. citizen of Turkish descent arrested in Armenia last month on a U.S. warrant.

The indictment, dating from 2016, consists of FIVE counts relating to a 2013 trip to Turkey and Azerbaijan taken by several members of the U.S. Congress and their staff, which Öksüz played a key role in organising.

The United States has strict regulations relating to the funding of foreign trips made by politicians. The indictment states that in organising the trip, Öksüz knowingly broke these regulations by falsifying information about the source of funding on forms he filled in on behalf of the Congress members who made the trip.

Öksüz is alleged to have paid for the trip, and for a conference those taking part in the trip attended in Azerbaijan, using funds provided by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic. However, he allegedly attempted to conceal this by funnelling the money through two other groups; the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan, a non-profit organisation focused on promoting U.S.-Azerbaijan relations in business, culture, and education, and a consulting firm based in Azerbaijan.

In filling in ethics forms relating to the trip on behalf Congress members who participated in the conference, the indictment states Öksüz knowingly concealed the true source of the funding, thereby falling foul of the House of Representatives travel regulations.

Öksüz’s arrest attracted widespread interest in Turkey, due to his allegedly close ties to the Gülen movement. The Turkish government formerly co-operated closely with the movement, both domestically and abroad. But relations between the two parties deteriorated dramatically in late 2013, shortly after Öksüz organised the trip referred to in the indictment. Ankara says the group was behind an attempted coup in July 2016 and has since designated it a terrorist organisation.

Armenian media has also taken an interest in the Öksüz case. It is not clear when he moved to Armenia, but he established an event management business in Yerevan in 2017. Armenian interest has focussed on Öksüz’s apparently close former ties to the Azerbaijan government. On the one hand, Öksüz’s presence in Armenia, which has uneasy relations with Baku, has raised eyebrows. But on the other, Azerbaijan has supported Turkey’s efforts to hunt down members of the Gülen movement, raising questions about the extent to which Öksüz still maintains links to Azerbaijan.