Turkey says its security forces have detained 13 individuals over their suspected affiliation to the banned Gulen movement while they were attempting to flee to neighboring Greece.
In a statement on Sunday, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry said that security forces arrested 19 people, including 13 suspected members of the Gulen movement, while they were trying to slip out of Turkey, the country’s official Anadolu news agency reported.
The statement, posted on the ministry’s Twitter account, added that the suspects were detained during an attempt to flee to Greece.
The ministry further said that they were caught by security forces in the northwestern Edirne province near the Turkey-Greece border.
Back in mid-July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military carried out a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declaring that it had seized control of the country and that the government was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.
Since then, Ankara has accused US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen of having orchestrated the coup. The 80-year-old 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.
However, Ankara has banned the movement and branded it as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Turkish officials have frequently called on their US counterparts to extradite Gulen, but their demands have not been taken heed of.
The Turkish government 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.
Gulen has called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.