Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come out in defence of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood after recent international pressure against the movement, particularly from the United States, seeks to list the group as a terrorist organisation.
Erdogan said that he did not consider the Brotherhood to be a terrorist organisation because “it is not an armed group, but is in actual fact an ideological organisation,” adding that “there would be no tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey if they had anything to do with terrorism, and we have not seen or observed any action [from them] that indicates this.”
Erdogan’s comments were made during an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya during his recent visit to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, as part of his recent tour of the Arabian Gulf states.
Responding to a question by host Turki Al-Dakheel about the US administration of President Donald Trump considering blacklisting the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, Erdogan said: “Personally, I don’t consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organisation as it is not an armed group, but is in actual fact an ideological organisation.”
Erdogan added that the Brotherhood was “divided and present in many different places, and I haven’t seen any armed activity from them. If I had, then my position towards them would be like my position towards any terrorist organisation.”
“If they are treated as terrorists, I believe that is not the right thing to do,” the Turkish president said.
Erdogan was then asked if he would extradite the Brotherhood’s leadership from Turkey if another nation considered them terrorists like how Turkey is demanding the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, leader of the Hizmet Movement that Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt last July.
Erdogan said: “Every now and then we get these requests, but we always ask [those who make the request] this – Are they [the Brotherhood] an armed terrorist group? Have the ones whom you are requesting extradition of responsible for terrorist or militant acts?”
Rubbishing claims that the Brotherhood were like the Gulenist faction, the Turkish president explained that “we are talking about an organisation that committed terrorist attacks and used weapons, and was looking for [the opportunity to overthrow the Turkish government] for decades.”
“Those who attempted the coup in Turkey [are wanted by the state] because they tried to destroy Turkey and we cannot forgive them,” Erdogan said of the Hizmet Movement.