The West Study Group (BÇG), a clandestine group formed within the military during the days of the Feb. 28, 1997 military coup, not only categorized individuals in Turkey according to their religiosity and ideology but also Turks abroad, Today's Zaman has learned.
The BÇG, which categorized politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and bureaucrats based on their religious and ideological backgrounds, was formed within the military during the 1997 coup, in which the military overthrew a coalition government led by the now defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP).
The BÇG followed the activities of several religious communities abroad and sent a report to the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Constitutional Court about these groups in order to ensure the RP would be closed. The military had accused the RP of supporting religious fundamentalism in the country.
In regard to the Süleymancılar community, led by Süleyman Hilmi Tunahan, the BÇG said in its report that the group collects donations to finance its activities both in Turkey and abroad and sometimes sends money to Turkey to sponsor the construction of mosques.
With regard to the Hizmet movement led by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, the BÇG said the group's activities abroad mostly involve the opening of schools in Central Asia and the purchase of land or buildings for the construction of schools.
The BÇG's allegations led to the closure of the RP in 1998 and the filing of a case against Gülen in 2000 over charges of terrorism. The prosecutor claimed that Gülen had been involved in attempting to establish an illegal organization since 1989 seeking to change the secular state structure into one based on religion. The indictment of the case made no reference whatsoever to any concrete action constituting a crime, as spelled out in the Counterterrorism Law (TMK). Instead, the charges in the indictment were based on Gülen's views expressed in print and on TV as well as his social activities. Following a long trial, Gülen was acquitted in 2008 of all charges against him.