By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - The Alabama Education Association (AEA) filed a lawsuit on Friday against a Texas-based member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) seeking to open a charter school in rural southwest Alabama.
Residents of Washington County in the U.S. state of Alabama have strongly rejected plans to establish a charter school in the area, yet the project was approved despite major shortcomings and a lack of educational standards and credentials.
According to a report by the Al Reporter, a news magazine in Alabama, the lawsuit claims Soner Tarim "engaged in fraudulent conduct to conceal the extent of his involvement with the non-profit organization that is allegedly behind the creation of Woodland Prep, a charter school located in Washington County."
Tarim, one of the key figures running FETO's charter school network in the U.S., is the CEO of the Unity School Services and was the founder of Harmony Schools, a charter school network in Texas.
FETO and its U.S.-based billionaire leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Turkey also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
The lawsuit also claims Tarim "misrepresented the level of community support for the school and is advertising illegally in Mississippi in an attempt to attract enough students to be able to open the school."
Tarim's charter project in Alabama was granted a one-year extension by the Alabama Public Charter School Commission to delay the opening of the school a few months ago.
AEA Associate Executive Director Theron Stokes said, based on reports, that it was clear the group who made the charter school application for Woodland Prep was "nothing but a front for Tarim", as reported by Al Reporter.
"He (Tarim) got a taste for Alabama taxpayer money through LEAD Academy in Montgomery and has decided he wants to franchise corporate charter schools,” Stokes said.
"But the citizens of Washington County have risen up to fight the diversion of funds from a school system that, despite the odds, is thriving and succeeding. That is why contractors walked off the construction site, why he’s advertising in Mississippi to get students, and why we are taking this step -- to support our members and our local association in their fight," Stokes added.
According to an earlier report by the same magazine: "A copy of the USS contract with the Woodland Prep board shows that Tarim will make 15 percent of all federal, state and local funds received by Woodland. If Woodland’s projected enrollment of 260 students is accurate, Tarim will make more than $300,000," making him the highest paid official in the poverty-stricken county.
It also said "legal questions" had been raised about Harmony as well as Tarim’s use of the schools to exploit a visa program and skirt hiring laws in order to give contract jobs to Turkish workers and teachers, referring to loyalists of Gulen.
"There have also been other, education-related problems, such as a massive grade-change scandal at Harmony in Texas and financial fraud allegations related to grants at other Gulen schools," reported the magazine.
FETO has a considerable presence internationally, including private schools -- more than 150 charter schools in the U.S. -- and hospitals which serve as a revenue stream for the terror group.