TURKEY

Former Istanbul governor Mutlu appears in FETO hearing

Former Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu who was detained after last year's July 15 defeated coup has faced trial over alleged links to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization.

A former Istanbul governor facing trial over alleged links to the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) denied all charges against him on Thursday.

Huseyin Avni Mutlu appeared before Istanbul's 30th Criminal Court in Silivri closed prison, near Istanbul.

Mutlu, who was detained after last year's July 15 defeated coup, faces life imprisonment if convicted of membership of a terrorist group and of attempting to overthrow Turkey's government.

Speaking about the Gezi Park protests of 2013, which spread across the country leaving eight protesters and one police officer dead plus dozens more injured, Mutlu said he had tried to keep "enthusiastic youths from the trap".

"Throughout my entire life, I have always been clearly against terrorism," he added.

When asked if he suspected FETO had links to the Gezi protests, Mutlu said if he had been aware of the organization's involvement, he would not have allowed the group to interfere.

Regarding ties to Fetullah Gulen, Mutlu admitted he had had contact with the self-exiled FETO leader, having once sent him get-well wishes through a member of an NGO travelling to the U.S.

Gulen thanked him on the phone in return via Ekrem Dumanli, former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Zaman, Mutlu said.

After this Mutlu said his name was published in a "conspiracy" advertisement.

According to the Turkish government, FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

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