A high-ranking member of the movement of Pennsylvania-based opposition figure Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the failed July 2016 coup, has been captured by Turkish intelligence agents in a joint operation with their Sudanese counterparts.
Security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Memduh Cikmaz, who is referred to as the “money vault” of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), appeared at a court hearing in the northern city of Corum via video link as he was being transferred to Bakirkoy Court in Istanbul from the city’s Ataturk International Airport.
Cikmaz told the court he had been living in the Sudanese capital city of Khartoum, and was a partner in a brick factory.
The court remanded him in custody, saying there was "strong evidence of crime" and suspicion "he may flee."
Cikmaz was sought with an arrest warrant for "leadership of an armed terrorist group."
The security sources said agents from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) found about the whereabouts of Çıkmaz two months ago. He has apparently transferred millions of dollars to FETO from Sudan.
Also on Monday, Istanbul’s 26th Heavy Penal Court began the trial of 50 former soldiers accused of attempting to occupy a municipality building during last year’s botched putsch.
The assault left 14 people, including professor Ilhan Varank, the older brother of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Chief Adviser Mustafa Varank, dead.
Meanwhile, a Turkish court has ordered an academic, who is on hunger strike in protest against her dismissal after last year's failed coup, to stay in prison despite the prosecutor's call for her release.
The court decided to keep Nuriye Gulmen, who is on trial on terror charges, behind bars even though the prosecutor had stated that there was no risk of her absconding.
Her lawyer Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu said he did not know why Gulmen was kept in custody after the judges at her trial at Sincan prison complex in Ankara province gave no explanation.
“They gave their decision and soon after left the courtroom, because of this, it is not possible to understand why they made this decision,” he said.
The development comes after last month's release of teacher Semih Ozakca, who is also on hunger strike and facing similar charges as those of Gulmen.
Gulmen and Ozakca first began a protest late last year after their dismissal in the wake of last year's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They started the hunger strike in March.
Turkish official arrested the pair in May on charges of affiliation to the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) militant group. They both deny the charges and describe them as fabricated.
Ozakca was released on October 20, but was ordered to remain at home and only allowed outside for any approved hospital visits or to attend court hearings.
Human rights activists have warned against the heath condition of the academics, who have been on hunger strike for 264 days.
They say the hunger strikers only consume salty or sugary water, herbal tea and vitamin B1.
Gulmen was transferred into intensive care in September. Her family claim this was against her will.
On July 15, 2016, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and Erdogan’s government was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.
Turkey also accuses Gulen of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.
Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.
“Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless and politically-motivated slanders,” he said in a statement in July.
The cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he said was aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”
Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the failed coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the botched coup.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.
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