Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 106 people, believed to have worked as matchmakers for the so-called Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which is accused by Ankara of orchestrating last year’s failed military coup, Istanbul police say.
According a spokesman for the Istanbul police on Monday, 62 of the suspects had been arrested in a counter-terrorism operation centered in Istanbul but spread over 20 other provinces in the Anatolian country.
He further said that further operations to locate the remaining 44 suspects were ongoing, adding that they were “marriage officials” for supporters of the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says was behind the botched mid-July 2016 putsch.
Gulen has since strongly rejected any involvement in the coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, Ankara labeled his transnational religious and social movement, Gulen Hareketi, as a terror organization, the so-called FETO. The Turkish government has so far submitted a total of seven requests to US officials concerning the extradition of the Pennsylvania-based figure.
The police spokesman further said that the suspects had allegedly helped set up arranged marriages for some of Gulen’s followers. Turkish authorities claim that the Gulen network closely monitored the personal and professional lives of some followers, including their education, career and marriages.
Turkish police and the country’s intelligence officials managed to identify the suspects via using conversations traced on ByLock, an encrypted messaging application that was allegedly used by Gulen’s supporters for communication, the police official said.
Last Month, Turkey’s interior ministry announced that until then it had identified 215,092 users of the application and had launched probes into 23,171 of them.
The Turkish authorities have so far detained more than 50,000 people, including security officials, military personnel and civil servants, over alleged links to Gulen’s organization and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have also been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since July last year, has also been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the botched coup.
Rights groups and European governments have repeatedly criticized Ankara for the continued crackdown, saying the government is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle the dissent.