Mon, Apr 17, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Americans targets of Turkish probe into failed coup

NY Times News Service, ISTANBUL, Turkey

A Turkish prosecutor has opened an investigation into 17 people accused of fomenting last year’s failed coup, including many prominent US officials, academics and politicians, state news media reported on Saturday.

Among those placed under investigation by the chief prosecutor in Istanbul are former CIA director John Brennan; US Senator Chuck Schumer; former US attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara; and Office of Foreign Assets Control head David Cohen, according to the Anadolu Agency, a state-run news wire.

The investigation was announced one day before a national referendum to expand the powers of Turish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leading to speculation that the two events were linked.

Throughout the campaign, Erdogan and his allies have frequently manufactured diplomatic spats with European countries, in what some analysts described as a bid to persuade nationalist voters to vote “Yes” to his proposed reforms to secure Turkey’s place in the world.

The accusations against the Americans might have been launched with similar intentions, said Soner Cagaptay, the author of a forthcoming biography of Erdogan, The New Sultan.

“The ‘Yes’ camp still doesn’t feel safe. It’s still searching for foreign enemies and conspiracies to mobilize nationalist and Islamist support,” said Cagaptay, a Turkey researcher at the Washington Institute think tank.

The investigation might also be a tit-for-tat response to the arrest in New York of an executive from a state-owned Turkish bank, according to Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“It’s partly: You’re arresting our people, we can do the same to you,” said Barkey, who was among those placed under investigation.

Bharara, who was ousted from office last month, had opened an investigation into Reza Zarrab, a wealthy Turkey-based trader with connections to Erdogan.

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish banker, was arrested as part of that case after Bharara was fired.

The investigation might also be a reflection of Turkey’s dwindling hopes of involvement in the US-led campaign to take Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State group, analysts said.

Or it might have been begun by an overzealous prosecutor seeking to demonstrate his loyalty to Erdogan or his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Cagaptay said.

“These may not be centralized efforts coming from AKP leaders, but may come from more low-level people who ... think they’re mirroring the great leader,” he said.

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