Duvar English 

A secret witness testifying in the trial of a man accused of being a follower of the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen said that Gülen’s followers tried to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by having him fall off a horse in 2003. 

The government blames Gülen for the July 2016 coup attempt and refer to his followers as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). The man on trial, Yusuf Bekmezci, who is being charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, said that he has known Gülen since he was young but has no involvement in any terror organization. 

The secret witness, known as ‘Zaman,’ testified that Bekmezci was one of Gülen’s important men based in Kazakhstan, and had a role in planning the coup years in advance. Zaman said that Gülen initially wanted a bloodless coup, which was why Gülenist followers launched a December 2013 corruption probe that targeted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) cabinet members and included the release of tape recordings where Erdoğan can be heard telling family members to hide large amounts of money. 

That corruption probe marked a major falling out between Gülen and Erdoğan, who were once key allies. The government proceeded with a purge of Gülenists in the judiciary and police forces that intensified following the failed July 2016 coup. 

Zaman testified that Gülenists poisoned a horse named Cihan that Erdoğan rode and fell off in 2003 during the opening of a park in the Bayrampaşa district of Istanbul, and that the purpose of the poisoning was for Erdoğan to fall and die by breaking his neck. Cihan’s owner Murat Cemilgil said that his horse died in 2007 of an intestinal knot. 

Zaman said that Gülen ultimately decided on a bloody coup and had prepared a list of 5000 people that were to be rounded up in a stadium, some of which were to be killed and others to be imprisoned. 

The secret witness also claimed in his testimony that FETÖ first aimed to take control of Turkey, then the United States, and ultimately the world.