An academic named as one of Turkey’s “most wanted terrorists” has been appointed president of a US university.
Serif Ali Tekalan, a medical professor, took charge of North American University, based in Houston, Texas, last month, according to a report by the pro-Turkish government Daily Sabah newspaper on 8 January.
Professor Tekalan, a former rector of Istanbul’s Fatih University, fled Turkey in 2010 after he was implicated in a cheating scandal, in which questions and answers for Turkey’s civil service exams were allegedly leaked to supporters of the exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
He was later placed on the Turkish Interior Ministry’s list of most wanted terrorists, with a reward of 750,000 Turkish liras (£166,000) for information leading to his capture, over his alleged links to the US-based Gulen, who is accused of perpetrating last year's failed coup in Turkey.
According to the Daily Sabah, Professor Tekalan now leads the North American University, formerly North American College, which was founded by Gulenists in 2010 – one of hundreds of schools, colleges and universities across the world allegedly run by Gulen’s group.
More than 110,000 civil servants, academics and journalists have now been sacked or suspended over their alleged links to Gulen since a plot to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan failed on 15 July.
Those dismissed have often been placed on an official blacklist, which makes it almost impossible for them to gain future employment, while some have had their passports revoked.
More than 50,000 of those suspended, sacked or jailed are educational staff, while 37,000 have been jailed pending trial.
Turkey’s president also claimed greater powers over appointing university heads in a move that in effect “eradicates university autonomy”, critics have said.