Mohammed Dahlan has been behind several regional attempts to overthrow democratic governments including Turkey’s failed 2016 coup. Now, Turkey wants him brought to justice.
Turkey recently placed a $700,000 bounty on Mohammed Dahlan, for information leading to his arrest.
Dahlan, formerly part of the Palestinian Authority, is considered by Ankara as a mercenary for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and accused of being part of the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Earlier this year, Turkish authorities arrested several individuals it accuses of spying for the UAE.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced that Dahlan was placed on the list of Turkey’s most wanted terrorists for transferring funds to FETO which was responsible for the coup attempt in Turkey.
Dahlan’s spider web
Turkey’s announcement on Dahlan places the 58-year-old Palestinian fugitive at the centre of several operations that Turkey has been countering over the last few years over attempts by foreign states to disrupt Turkey’s political and social cohesion.
Dahlan’s first known foray into toppling governments was in his native Gaza when between 2006 and 2007 he worked on a plan with the US administration to topple the democratically elected Hamas government.
A Vanity Fair article in 2008 outlined a concerted US approved attempt led by Dahlan and the neoconservatives in the George W Bush administration to “provoke a Palestinian civil war.”
The plan eventually backfired spectacularly and ultimately resulted in Hamas consolidating its rule over Gaza, with Dahlan fleeing.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last month accused the UAE of harbouring a terrorist: "There is a terrorist called Dahlan and he is spying for Israel. That is why he fled from the country," he told Al Jazeera in an interview.
Cavusoglu further charged the UAE, which has tense relations with Turkey, with trying to replace Abbas with Dahlan.
In 2011, Dahlan had to flee the West Bank when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused his former ally of being behind the poisoning of the late President Yasser Arafat.
Dahlan, 58, was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison in 2016 by a Palestinian court for corruption, and ordered to repay $16 million, according to his lawyers.
Dahlan fled to the UAE, however, since then, he has lived anything but a quiet life. Dahlan, stateless, was adopted by the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
And the UAE has used Dahlan as a proxy for their regional foreign policy ambitions.
An investigation in 2018 by news outlet Buzzfeed found that Dahlan worked with a Hungarian Jewish veteran of the French Foreign Legion to hire American retired special forces turned mercenaries to assassinate Yemeni politicians at the behest of the UAE.
Several reports have also placed Dahlan as a leading actor in the coup plot in Egypt in 2013 that overthrew another democratically elected Middle Eastern leader, Mohamed Morsi.
It is against this rap sheet that Turkey has accused Dahlan of being part of the coup attempt in Turkey and more broadly running a disinformation campaign in the international media.
While working for the Palestinian Authority, firstly under Yasser Arafat then under Mahmoud Abbas, Dahlan has held several senior posts including as a national security advisor.
Dahlan, after being ousted from Gaza and the West Bank has since gained Montenegrian and Serbian citizenship. The UAE in recent years has been on the most significant investors in Serbia.