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Top Gulenist suspect dies of heart attack in Turkish prison

This photo shows Zeki Guven, a main suspect of Turkey's failed coup of 2016, while being escorted by security guards upon arrest in a shopping mall in the western Turkish city of Eskisehir on July 1, 2018.

A top suspect of the 2016 coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has died of a heart attack in prison, state-run news agency Anadolu reports.

Anadolu said on Monday that Zeki Guven, a former Ankara police intelligence chief who had been arrested last month, died of heart attack in his prison cell at Sincan on the outskirts of Ankara a day earlier.

Guven was considered a top Gulenist, a label Turkey uses to designate those linked to the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the failed July 15, 2016 coup. Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup bid, which left over 250 people dead and led to a massive nationwide crackdown.

Anadolu described Guven, 48, as a member of the “golden children,” a faction believed to be very close to Gulen and his vast network of cultural and education activities in Muslim countries. Guven was arrested with his wife while they were shopping at a mall in the western city of Eskisehir.

He was also known for his role in exposing a scandal in 2010 involving the former leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal. Baykal stepped down after a video on the internet showed him conducting an affair with a married female MP from his party.

There was no immediate comment from authorities on the death of Guven in prison and whether a suicide was involved.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey over alleged links to Gulen while 150,000 others have lost their jobs over the same allegations.

Meanwhile, prosecutors issued arrest warrants on Monday for 68 members of the ground forces army command over alleged links to Gulen.

Right groups and governments have criticized Turkey for going beyond the rule of law in its crackdown. Gulen’s network has also raised questions regarding the death of many of its followers in Turkish prisons.

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