An Istanbul court has issued an arrest warrant for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who has emerged as an arch foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media reported.
Gulen – who leads a broad-based Muslim group known as Hizmet (Service) and has lived in the United States since 1999 – is accused of “leading a terrorist organisation,” according to state-run TRT television, which broadcast the report on Friday.
The court also ordered the formal arrest of four people detained in recent raids on a newspaper and a television station affiliated with Gulen, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Istanbul, said prosecutors had asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” to pave the way for the arrest and extradition of Gulen to Turkey.
“We are a very long way from the US arresting Gulen or extraditing him. Any case would have to be proved before a US court,” he said.
The arrest warrant comes a year after allegations of corruption levelled against officials close to Ergogan were made public, prompting some of the officials to resign from their positions.
Ergodan, who was Turkey’s prime minister until August when he became president, maintains Gulen was responsible for those allegations, said our correspondent.
The crackdown has been widely condemned as a blow against free press, drawing criticism from the EU and the US.
The four men who were remanded in custody include the head of a national TV network and three ex-police officers on terrorism charges. They have all been linked to Gulen.
Chief editor freed
Samanyolu TV chief Hidayet Karaca was placed under arrest on charges of forming a “terrorist” group, after being detained with over two dozen others in weekend raids on journalists, scriptwriters and police accused of plotting to overthrow Erdogan.
The court, however, ordered the release of Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily which has repeatedly accused Erdogan of running a corrupt regime and who was arrested in the same raids last Sunday.
Dumanli defiantly told hundreds of supporters outside the court afer his release that “the press cannot be silenced, media will never succumb to intimidations”.
Seven other suspects in the case were ordered released by the court in Istanbul while three more – all ex-police officers – were also remanded in custody.
Gulen, who is believed to have millions of followers in Turkey and runs private crammer schools around the world through his Hizmet group, has vehemently denied all the allegations against him.