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Turkey arrests more than 500 over suspected ties to Erdogan foe

Turkey arrests more than 500 over suspected ties to Erdogan foe
May 14, 2024 Web Desk

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) - Turkish authorities said Tuesday they arrested 544 people suspected of links to preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of being behind an attempted coup in 2016.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya posted on X that arrests were made in 62 of the country's 81 provinces, targeting "individuals intended by FETO to enter various levels of the civil service," using the acronym favoured by Ankara to designate Gulen's movement.

"We will not leave members of FETO alone," the minister said. The suspects are accused of signing up for public service exams under orders of the Gulen movement, and of communicating through the Bylock messaging app, which the Turkish government considers to be controlled by the self-exiled preacher.

Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, has always denied that his movement was behind the attempted July 2016 coup.

Once a close ally of Erdogan, the preacher was accused by Turkish authorities of being behind corruption allegations against the government in 2013, when Erdogan was prime minister. Erdogan accuses the imam of trying to create an alternative state via its network of schools present on all continents.

The post-coup crackdown saw tens of thousands of people arrested, more than 140,000 fired or suspended from their jobs and nearly 3,000 sentenced to life in jail.

Turkey regularly asks other countries to extradite Gulen's followers, and tried to make that a condition of accepting Finland and Sweden's membership in NATO before finally dropping those demands.