Azerbaijani businessman Mubariz Mansimov, whom Turkish authorities are accusing of aiding the Gülen network, has said that he previously visited cleric Fethullah Gülen in his compound in Pennsylvania together with former interior minister Mehmet Ağar.
Mansimov made the remarks during an interview by journalist İsmail Saymaz from Halk TV. Saymaz said in his column on Sept. 2 that he had asked the Azeri businessman if he had any contact with the Gülen network so far.
In response, Mansimov reportedly said: “I visited Fethullah Gülen together with Mehmet Ağar, and upon his [Ağar's] demand. Ağar also knows my conflict with the FETÖ [using the government acronym of the Gülen network]. I have never sympathized with Gülen. My sect is Shi'a [Islam]. With us, there is no notion of cult.”
Mansimov said that he met with Ağar about 15 years ago in Baku through Turkish businessman Yusuf Uğur and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lawmaker Saffet Sancaklı. “They [Uğur and Sancaklı] have introduced me to Ağar at a hotel in Azerbaijan. They said, 'He [Ağar] wants to meet you.' This is how we met,” Mansimov said.
Mansimov, the owner of Istanbul-headquartered shipping conglomerate Palmali Group, was arrested over alleged links to the Gülen network, which is widely believed to have undertaken the failed coup attempt of 2016, but was later released.
He was sentenced to five years in jail over charges of “aiding” the Gülen network at a trial that took place at the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court. The Istanbul Regional Court upheld the lower court's ruling, but the case has been taken to the Court of Cassation, the highest appeals court.
Upon the appeal process, the Turkish judiciary released Mansimov from custody and imposed a inter-city travel ban on him.
“It will come out that I do not have a relationship to FETÖ. My case is now at the Court of Cassation. There is no such “aiding” [to Gülen network],” Mansimov told journalist Saymaz.
In one of his videos on YouTube, Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker mocked the accusations against Mansimov, and said that Ağar had seized the Azeri billionaire's properties in the Yalıkavak Marina in the Aegean city of Bodrum.
Peker said that Ağar was behind the police operation against the Azeri businessman.