Turkey targets hundreds of people tied to US cleric for arrests

Turkey targets hundreds of people tied to US cleric for arrests
© Aaron Schwartz

The Turkish government is targeting hundreds of people tied to a U.S. cleric who it blames for the attempted coup in 2016 against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish authorities have issued detention warrants for 695 people connected to cleric Fethullah Gulen, state media reported, according to The Associated Press. The government is focusing on detaining followers of Gulen, saying the group presents a national security threat.

Prosecutors are aiming to detain 467 Gulen followers, who they say cheated in a 2009 police superintendent promotion exam to infiltrate government positions. They said other raids were being conducted in 67 provinces across the country, AP reported, citing state media Anadolu Agency.

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Authorities also issued warrants for 157 noncommissioned military officers in 43 provinces and 71 Justice Ministry personnel, with at least 101 of the military personnel still on active duty in the Air Force or Navy, Anadolu reported, according to the AP. 

The July 15, 2016, coup attempt resulted in about 250 deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, about 77,000 arrests and about 130,000 people dismissed from government jobs. 

Gulen, the cleric in question, has been in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since 1999 and denies that he was involved in the 2016 events.