Turkey may be trying to use President-elect Donald Trump’s business interests as a way to force the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric blamed for inciting a military coup on July 15, according to a report in Newsweek magazine.
The Middle Eastern country this month arrested Barbaros Muratoglu, a senior executive with ties to the Trump Organization, in an effort to put political pressure on the next U.S. chief executive, the magazine said.
Muratoglu works at Dogan Holding, a leading industrial conglomerate that built the Trump Towers buildings in Istanbul. He was detained by police on Dec. 1 on “threadbare allegations” according to an investigation by Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald.
Trump’s company has been paid up to $10 million by the developers since 2014 to affix his name atop of the buildings, one of which is residential and the other offices, according to The Independent newspaper.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania, was considered an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until a corruption investigated drove a wedge between them a few years ago. Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind the investigations.
Turkey has sought the extradition of Gulen, who currently is on the country’s most-wanted-terrorist list. Erdogan may try to use Trump’s business interests to force the issue.
"Trump’s casual praise of a member of the Dogan family prompted Erdogan to believe this relationship might give him leverage over the president-elect,” Newsweek reports. “In the past, Erdogan has placed enormous pressure on the Dogan Group, which owns media operations that have been critical of him, by imposing a $2.5 billion tax fine and calling for supporters to boycott its newspapers and television stations.”
The military coup started as tanks rolled into the streets of the Turkish capital, Ankara. Forces loyal to Erdogan helped to re-take power the next day. At least 290 died and more than 1,400 were wounded during the turmoil, according to Turkey's Foreign Ministry.
Eichenwald says to follow the money and influence back to the next U.S. commander-in-chief.
“Once again, follow the dominoes as they tip over. Erdogan is frustrated in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump praises a Turkish executive who works with his business partner there, Dogan. A few weeks later, a senior Dogan executive is detained on threadbare allegations. If Erdogan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gülen extradited,” Newsweek reported.
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