Turkey's Purge Reaches Its Largest Defense Corporation
by Burak Bekdil • Mar 9, 2017
Cross-posted from Defense News
Originally published under the title "Scores of Aselsan Staff Indicted for Terror Links."
Turkey's purge of alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen has now hit the country's largest defense corporation.
ANKARA — Turkish prosecutors have launched a probe into scores of personnel at the military electronics specialist Aselsan, Turkey's biggest defense company.
An Ankara prosecutor's office said it had launched legal proceedings against 84 Aselsan employees on charges of being members of leaders of the FETO/PDY terrorist organization.
Police forces said on March 9 they detained a total of 46 Aselsan employees. Of those, the police said, 30 are active duty officials, including "several engineers and specialists."
Nearly 50 other Aselsan officials probed by the prosecutors had earlier been either suspended from work or dismissed from the company.
Police officials say there are arrest warrants for some company officials who are wanted by the police.
FETO/PDY is allegedly a clandestine network of Islamists who aimed to filter into, among others, the top ranks of Turkey's judiciary, security, military, academia and business circles.
FETO/PDY's alleged leader is Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who has been living in self-exile in Pennsylvania, United States, since 1999. Turkish officials claim Gulen was the mastermind of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in which nearly 300 people, including civilians, were killed.
The Turkish government has since asked for Gulen's extradition from the U.S., but Washington has not yet replied positively or negatively saying independent U.S. courts should decide on the matter.
The government also has purged more than 100,000 government officials and detained tens of thousands of others on charges of alleged links with the Gulen network.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Turkish police officer said that the main evidence against Aselsan officials was their use of "ByLock," an encrypted communications application Turkish prosecutors claim was the primary means of communications among FETO/PDY members.
A spokesman for Aselsan did not comment on detentions of personnel. But an official from the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, majority shareholder of Aselsan, said that the operation would not affect Aselsan's business in any significant way. "Ongoing programs are progressing as planned," the official said. "We are not affected in any way by this unpleasant situation."
Aselsan employs more than 5,000 personnel, more than half of which are engineers.
Aselsan reported recently that its 2016 profits jumped by 272 percent to $220 million.
The company is the prime local contractor for several large-scale Turkish indigenous weapons programs.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based political analyst and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics: Turkey and Turks | Burak Bekdil
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