Turkey arrests 1,000 and suspends 9,100 police in new crackdown
Turkey has detained more than 1,000 people and suspended over 9,100 police in a new crackdown against alleged supporters of the US-based preacher accused of orchestrating the coup bid against president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dawn raids across the country – seeking more than 3,000 suspects – were followed by a statement from police that 9,103 police officers were being suspended on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gulen.
The new wave of the crackdown came just over a week after Erdogan narrowly won a referendum on ramping up his powers which opponents fear will mean one-man rule.
A total of 1,120 suspects have so far been detained, the official Anadolu news agency said. Some 4,672 suspects were sought in Wednesday’s raids – of whom 1,448 are already in jail – meaning that a total of 3,224 arrest warrants were issued.
About 8,500 police officers were involved in the nationwide operation, Anadolu reported, adding that arrest warrants had been issued for 390 suspects in Istanbul alone.
Meanwhile, the 9,103 police officers were being suspended on suspicion of links or contacts to Gulen’s group, on the grounds of national security, the police force said in a statement on its website.
Turkish authorities blame Gulen for masterminding the failed military coup in July 2016 that aimed to oust Erdogan from power but he denies the charges.
The government has repeatedly asked the United States to extradite Gulen, who has been living in exile there since 1999.
About 47,000 people have already been arrested in Turkey under a nine-month state of emergency in place since the coup bid, a crackdown whose magnitude has raised alarm in the west and caused further strife for Ankara’s bid to join the EU.
Two days after the referendum the Turkish parliament extended the state of emergency by another three months to 19 July.
After the latest sweep, German foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer said Berlin “has taken note of the mass detentions with concern”, urging respect for rule of law.
EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said every individual had a right to a fair trial and empahasised that Turkey needed to respect the “highest democratic standards and practices”.
The suspects detained are so-called “secret imams” of Gulen suspected of infiltrating themselves into the police or other state institutions, Anadolu said.
Erdogan has repeatedly said he will wipe out the “virus” of Gulen from state institutions after the failed coup.
The vast operation targeted big cities such as Istanbul as well as Izmir in western Turkey and Konya in the Anatolian heartland.
Binali Yildirim, the prime minister, had hinted in a television interview this month that a new anti-Gulen crackdown had been in the pipeline.
The yes camp won 51.41% of the vote in the referendum on creating a presidential system in Turkey but opponents claim the result would have been reversed in a fair poll.
The main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP) said on Wednesday it would challenge last-minute changes to voting rules in the referendum at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.
Analysts have said Erdogan, after his poll win, can choose between new confrontation or reconciliation with the west but in recent days tensions have risen further.
Turkish warplanes killed more than two dozen Kurdish fighters on Tuesday in strikes in Syria and Iraq, angering the United States.
Ankara said it had carried out the strikes against “terrorist havens”, vowing to continue acting against groups it links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).