Gülen movement set up cameras to watch Erdoğan’s every move - columnist

Members of the religious movement that Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016, used the Istanbul police’s city surveillance cameras to record Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s every move around his residence in the city, Hürriyet columnist Abdülkadir Selvi said on Thursday, citing the former Istanbul police chief.

The Gülen movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen was an ally of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) before the December 2013 corruption cases, in which Gülen-linked prosecutors launched investigations into Turkey’s top ministers. The AKP and its supporters label the incident as a coup attempt. 

Selami Altınok, who was appointed as the General Director of Security in Istanbul, following the incident, told Selvi that members of the Gülen movement in the police force had devised a plan to follow then Prime Minister Erdoğan.

For security reasons, all offices and residents of the president and the prime minister were kept under constant surveillance by the police’s network of surveillance cameras, said Altınok, who became the General Director of Security in 2016. 

The one exception to this was Erdoğan’s home in Kısıklı on Istanbul’s Asian side, where the cameras were not connected to the network. However, Altınok said, police linked to the Gülen network had operated those cameras secretly and downloaded the recording.

“It is obvious that they had archived the footage they deemed useful in a centre outside the Directorate of Security to use during a coup attempt against Erdoğan and destroyed the rest,” Altınok said.

The former police chief said he had intervened to connect the cameras around Erdoğan’s home to the citywide surveillance system. 

Turkish authorities have dismissed more than 100,000 public employees since the attempted putsch in 2016, and have arrested thousands of suspected Gülenists in a series of purges. The movement denies any involvement in the coup attempt.