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Turkey detains 39 more people over suspected affiliation to Gulen movement

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)
In this file picture, Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in the 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrive at a court inside the Sincan Prison in Ankara, Turkey. (Photo by AFP)

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

Police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities in the northwestern Balikesir province issued arrest warrants for 54 people, including 36 on-duty soldiers as well as former and retired military officials, as part of an investigation led by the provincial prosecutors into the activities of the movement, branded by the Turkish government as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

The sources added that anti-terror police raided the residences of the suspects in 38 provinces and have so far arrested 39 of them. Operations are underway to arrest the remaining suspects.

During the 2016 botched putsch, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of 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. 

Gulen has denounced the “despicable putsch” and reiterated that he had no role in it.

Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.

Turkey ended the nationwide state of emergency, imposed since the coup, in July 2018, after seven three-month renewals. 

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. Many more, 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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