The mystery of the Muslim cleric hiding out in the mountains

You hope that the FBI has this guy's gated compound in the Pocono Mountains wired floor to ceiling and wall to wall.

Associated Press:

The influential Muslim cleric lives quietly on a gated 26-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains, where he prays, works, meets admirers and watches from afar as terrorism accusations that have landed him on Turkey's most-wanted list unfold in court.

Rarely seen in public, Fethullah Gulen has long been one of Turkey's most important scholars, with multitudes of followers in his native country and around the world. More recently, Turkey's increasingly autocratic president, Recip Erdogan, has accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the officially secular government from his Pennsylvania idyll some 5,000 miles away.

Gulen's supporters call the charge baseless and, so far, the U.S. has shown little inclination to send him back to Turkey to face a trial that began without him Jan. 6 and is expected to last several months.

If the reclusive leader worries about the possibility, he hasn't shared it with confidants, they say.

"He said that the United States has a long tradition of democracy and rule of law," said Y. Alp Aslandogan, who sees Gulen about once a week as president of the New York-based Alliance for Shared Values, a group that promotes Gulen's ideas. "They will see that these are politically oriented charges, and they will not allow Erdogan to spread his ambition into the United States."

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on Gulen's case.

Gulen's followers run a loosely affiliated global network of charitable foundations, professional associations, businesses and other projects, including about 150 taxpayer-funded charter schools throughout the U.S. But details about Gulen's personal life and his ties to those ventures have long been murky, giving rise to suspicions about his motives.

Some of the U.S. schools have been investigated by the FBI amid allegations of financial mismanagement and visa fraud. One of the most explosive claims, leveled by a lawyer who is representing the Turkish government in a U.S. lawsuit against Gulen, is that the schools are importing Turkish teachers to identify impressionable students and indoctrinate them into Gulen's movement, sometimes called Hizmet, Turkish for "service."

Sounds to me like a cult. But the charities angle is very disturbing. One of the major means for terrorists to receive financing is through a network of charities that are able to launder cash donations to give material support to groups like Hamas. This is what the Holy Land Foundation trial was all about, that sent 5 of its leaders to prison for a very long time.

I would take any accusation coming from Turkey with a great deal of skepticism. But along with the hints of financial mismanagement and visa fraud, this is a man - and a movement - that bears careful watching.