Robert Amsterdam’s new client

​I learned of Robert Amsterdam when he was representing Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Yukos as their international lawyer. Amsterdam’s relentless criticism of Russia’s legal system, which he witnessed in action at the first Yukos trial in 2003-4, was spot on but too few cared to listen back then. He remained a vocal critic of Putinism for the next decade but his greatest contribution to the debate – as I believe now with the benefit of hindsight – was drawing attention specifically to the unfairness and perversity of Russia’s criminal procedure.

That’s why I was somewhat surprised to learn that Amsterdam was hired by the Turkish government to help it fight against Fethullah Gülen’s network in US courts, including, apparently, the court of public opinion. Most lawyers cannot afford to turn down clients with deep pockets. That’s understood – but Amsterdam is not strictly keeping his anti-Gülenist views to the courtroom.

From a recent AP report:

A federal judge on Wednesday [June 29, 2016] dismissed a lawsuit alleging that a reclusive Muslim cleric in Pennsylvania orchestrated human rights abuses in his native Turkey, ruling the claims did not belong in U.S. courts.

Turkey’s government funded the civil suit against Fethullah Gulen as part of a crackdown on the cleric and his movement by President Recep Erdogan.

It claimed Gulen ordered sympathetic police, prosecutors and judges in Turkey to target members of a rival spiritual movement critical of his teachings…

The legal action was filed in December [2015] on behalf of three men who claimed Gulen sympathizers in Turkish law enforcement planted evidence, fabricated search warrants, conducted illegal wiretaps and ultimately arrested and detained the men on trumped-up charges.

This is not so surprising if one has been listening to Dani Rodrik and Gareth Jenkins, but missing is any mention of the Gülen-Erdoğan alliance that only broke down in late 2013. It seems that Erdoğan was OK with Gülenists in law enforcement as long as they were attacking their common adversaries, including various secularists. It was only when Gülen’s associates accused Erdoğan’s family members of corruption that an all-out war began between the two camps.

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