Turkey has ordered the detention of 82 military personnel in an operation targeting suspected supporters of a Muslim preacher who Ankara accuses of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016, according to state-owned Anadolu news agency.
Operations targeting the network of US-based religious leader and businessman Fethullah Gulen have continued under a four-year-long crackdown since the attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
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Gulen denies involvement in the attempt, in which some 250 people were killed, excluding the putschists. A former ally of Erdogan, he has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999.
Tuesday’s operation was spread over 39 provinces and 63 people have already been arrested, Anadolu said. Seventy of the suspects were on active duty.
The detentions were ordered by the chief prosecutor in the western coastal province of Izmir, Anadolu said, adding that it also took steps to sack 848 military personnel, including high-ranking officers, over links to the network.
Since the coup attempt, tens of thousands of people have been arrested pending trial while thousands of civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended.
Coup leaders sentenced
Last week, a Turkish court sentenced leaders of the attempted coup to life in jail, convicting hundreds of army officers, pilots and civilians.
Erdogan has for years accused Gulen’s supporters of establishing a “parallel state” following its own agenda by infiltrating the police, judiciary, military and other state institutions.
Turkey has been condemned by its Western allies and rights groups over the crackdown, purges and erosion of judicial independence following the coup attempt.
Critics accuse the government of using the incident as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.
The government says the purges and arrests are in line with the rule of law and aim to remove Gulen’s supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.