AKP deputy says justice minister asked him to come to terms with Gülenists

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy of the southeastern city of Kahramanmaraş said on Friday Justice Minister asked him to come to terms with the Gülen movement, a Turkish Islamist group blamed for the 2016 coup attempt, nationalist opposition daily Yurt reported.

Turkey's Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, while he was the secretary-general of the AKP, asked him to "make a deal" the Gülen movement, Celalettin Güvenç said on social media.

Later, Güvenç took a step back and said his words were misunderstood, saying that Gül referred to avoiding any rights violations in the fight against Gülenists.

The statement came at a time when a columnist in the pro-government Sabah newspaper on Sept. 18 accused Gül of allowing the Gülen movement to re-infiltrate the judiciary. Followers of the reclusive U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen were once closely tied to the AKP and used positions within the judiciary to prosecute and jail their secular opponents while the movement’s newspapers cheered them on. 

Following widespread simultaneous criticism, Gül said he had been attacked by a clique within the AKP known as the Pelicanists who wanted him to be removed from the cabinet in a mooted reshuffle and have him replaced with one of their own.

The clique got its name after a document was leaked listing points of contention between Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The leak led to Davutoğlu’s resignation in 2016. The document was called “the Pelican file”, a reference to a John Grisham political thriller.

Turkey accuses the Gülen movement, a former ally of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), of over decades infiltrating state institutions, including the security forces, judiciary and ministries, among others. Since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Turkish authorities have imprisoned thousands they suspect of being members of the Gülen movement.