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Turkish police arrests 33 suspects over affiliation to Gulen network

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Paramilitary police and special force members escort outside the courthouse as nearly 500 suspects, including a number of generals and military pilots, accused of leading the July 2016 failed coup attempt and carrying out attacks from an air base in Ankara, arrive for trial in Ankara, Turkey, on August 1, 2017. (Photo by AP)

Turkish police forces have arrested 32 people on suspicion of affiliation to a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the failed July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police arrested 16 people over using ByLock, an encrypted messaging application that was allegedly used by Gulen's supporters for communication, on Monday.

Ten on-duty soldiers were arrested in the central city of Kirshehir. Six suspects were also detained in the northern province of Tokat as part of an investigation against members of the terror group.

Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 56 people linked to the Gulen movement on Monday.

During the botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary. 

Additionally, the Ankara government has outlawed his movement, and has branded it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

In this July 17, 2016 file photo, Turkish cleric and opposition figure Fethullah Gülen speaks to members of the media at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, the United States. (Photo by AP)

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.

The 76-year-old cleric has also called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he said is 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 coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed 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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