A reputed mob boss said in an interview on July 22 that he was asked by the Turkish government to murder Andrew Brunson, an American Pastor who spent some two years in a Turkey prison over alleged terrorism and espionage-related charges

“AK Party wanted to kill him [Brunson] and blame it on FETO. […] They didn’t offer me money. They just wanted to use people like me,” Serkan Kurtulus told Argentina-based Infobae news portal. 

FETO is a derogatory term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to refer to the Gülen group, accused of mounting a botched coup attempt in the summer of 2016. The group denies any involvement in the failed attempt.

Kurtuluş was reportedly the leader of a mob, which was based in the western Turkish province of İzmir, operating in Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Muğla, Artvin and Trabzon as well.

In Turkey, he is wanted over several major accusations, including alleged supply of illegal firearms to violent groups in Syria and the killing of a Russian pilot in 2015. Kurtulus reportedly fled Turkey in 2018. He was arrested in Argentina in June 2020, the Euronews reported.

Pastor Brunson was jailed by Turkey in October 2016 over accusiations of spying and having links to the Gulen group. The US officials claimed he was seized because of his Christian faith outreach and as a potential bargaining chip.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly demanded the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen as a condition for Brunson’s release.

Amid increasing pressure by Trump as well as Vice President Mike Pence threatening Turkey with sanctions, Brunson was first moved from prison to house arrest in July 2018 and later released in October 2018.

President Trump said there was “no deal” behind Brunson’s release but repeatedly thanked Erdoğan.