PROMINENT Victorians have vowed to stand with a local charity which key ally Turkey has labelled a terrorist organisation. The Turkish government claims the Australian Intercultural Society is part of what they have dubbed the “Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation” that was allegedly responsible for a coup last month.
Former state coroner Ian Gray retired Victoria Police deputy commissioner Tim Cartwright ex-state Governor David de Krester and retired federal judge Shane Marshall all sit on the organisation’s advisory board.
Both opposition leader Matthew Guy and Premier Daniel Andrews have spoken or are due to speak at its events.
But Turkey’s ambassador to Australia and consul general for Melbourne have warned politicians to stay away from the group and vowed to continue to inform “dignitaries about the true colours of this terrorist organisation.”
Melbourne Turkish consul general Mehmet Küçüksakalli said organisations like the Australian Intercultural Society were part of the global “Gulen terrorist organisation.”
“The Consulate General/the Consul General himself continue to inform Australian public officials and dignitaries about the true colours of this terrorist organisation and its global network that covers Australia as well in various forms and occasions.”
He said the global Gulen organisation ” which draws inspiration from moderate American based imam Fetullah Gulen ” posed a threat to Australia and should not be supported.
The Australian Intercultural Society has previously released a statement condemning the attempted July 15 coup which killed 250 people.
Its website states its aims as “promoting multiculturalism and fostering intercultural and interfaith dialogue”.
In a crackdown following the coup Turkish judges and military officers linked to the Gulen movement have been jailed in their thousands.
Liberal politician Bruce Atkinson said any alleged link to the charity and the Turkish coup was fanciful.
Eastern Metropolitan MLC Mr Atkinson retired from its advisory board before the 2014 election but said he still supported the group.
“They go out of their way to promote an understanding of the Islamic faith
“In my seven years that I have known them I have never heard them utter anything about politics in Turkey or even the Gulen movement.
Deakin University counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton said the Turkish crackdown on group’s associated with Gulen was purely political. Prof Barton who is on the advisory board said he was confident the group was not an Islamist organisation or even political.
“There is no wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
He said local Turkish officials were likely under directions from Ankara to issue warnings.
Melbourne Council deputy mayor Susan Riley said she still supported the group and had seen nothing to suggest it was involved in any terrorist activity.
Chair of the Victorian Multicultural Commission Helen Kapalos said separate meetings had been held with Turkish officials and the AIS after the coup.