Muslim Cleric with Clinton Ties Taken to Court for False Imprisonment

Followers of Muslim leader accused of running cult donated up to $1 million to Clinton Foundation

Fethullah Gülen
Fethullah Gülen / screenshot from YouTube
December 10, 2015

An Islamic Turkish religious leader whose followers have donated up to $1 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation is being taken to court on charges that he is using U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund a reclusive cult that is indoctrinating U.S. children and silencing critics by force, according to a copy of the legal complaint filed Wednesday in a U.S. District Court.

Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric whose movement has been described by critics as cult-like, stands accused of using hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds to establish more than 120 charter schools in the United States that are used to proselytize and indoctrinate American youths.

Gülen and his followers have long been accused of using these schools to brainwash children and hold hostage scores of Turkish immigrants who come to the United States on visas to teach at these institutions. The Turkish government has accused the movement of corruption and, in the past, has banned some of the cleric’s publications.

The court filing, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, alleges that Gülen and his followers have "falsely imprisoned" Turkish individuals who spoke out against the movement. It further accuses Gülen of violating U.S. law by ordering his affiliates in Turkey to unlawfully detain these critics.

Patrick Egan, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who is leading the action, claimed in a press conference Wednesday that Gülen has placed at least three individuals "in incarceration without proper evidence."

Gülen, who lives in rural eastern Pennsylvania, is accused in the suit of using "his well-placed religious followers residing in Turkey to launch a targeted campaign of persecution against a different religious group in Turkey that resulted in the arbitrary and prolonged detention" of at least three plaintiffs involved in the case, according to the complaint.

They are seeking a jury trial to adjudicate these allegations.

Robert Amsterdam, another attorney involved in the suit, alleged that Gülen and his followers are "proselytizing with taxpayer funds" and using their status to exert influence in U.S. political elections.

Followers of Gülen, who is touted by some as a moderate Muslim, have been prolific supporters of the Clinton Foundation, according to reports that individuals linked to the movement have given somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million to the foundation in recent months. The religious leader is believed to control about $25 billion in assets.

One prominent Gülen follower, Recep Ozkan, is reported to have served as a national finance co-chair on a pro-Clinton political action committee, the Daily Caller reported.

Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks documented Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the organization.

"Hillary Clinton is known to have attended [Gülen] events in the US, including a September 2007 Ramadan breakfast organised by the Gulenist Turkish Cultural Center in New York City," according to one 2009 email sent from an official of the global intelligence firm Stratfor.

Amsterdam said that these contributions to Clinton and others potentially violate the law and called on Clinton to return money accepted from Gülen.

State-level lawmakers also have come under scrutiny for accepting all-expense paid trips to Turkey that are orchestrated by the Gülen movement. An investigation by USA Today determined that at least 200 members of Congress and their staffers also partook in these trips.

Amsterdam, during the press conference, labeled Gülen’s political contributions as "systematically illegal" and noted that Sen. Ayotte (R., N.H.) recently returned a $43,000 contribution to her campaign donated by the movement.

"In addition to using his position in the U.S. as a base from which to direct attacks against his opponents back in Turkey, Muhammed Fethullah Gülen has used his network to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in potentially illegal political donations to U.S. presidential campaigns and Members of Congress," he told the Free Beacon. "Every candidate or official who received these questionable donations should follow the lead of Senator Kelly Ayotte and return them until the charges against Mr. Gülen and his network are fully investigated."

The Gülen movement "appears they may be one of the largest for interveners in American political activity," according to Amsterdam.

"The political contributions that went to candidates on both sides of the aisle, including what appears to be massive contributions" to organizations affiliated with various candidates," appears to come mainly from Gülen’s teachers, who Amsterdam claims "were forced to give back income to the movement," Amersterdam said at the press conference.

"We have information that anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of the income goes back to the movement in one form or another" in order "to further the political influence in the U.S," he said.

In addition to accusations of poor living conditions for many immigrant teachers, Gülen’s schools have further come under scrutiny of failing to uphold minimum U.S. educational standards.

Amsterdam questioned "why American students are being allowed to be proselytized by a foreign religious body on American soil with American taxpayer money," and expressed anger at why "the U.S. government with notice from 2005 to today has done so little about it."