Turkish police detain 'Gulenists' in Izmir

Those detained said to be loyalists of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of plotting against president.

    Turkish police detain 'Gulenists' in Izmir
    Supporters of the Gulen movement being sprayed with pepper spray by Turkish police [Zaman Newspaper/EPA]

    Turkish police have detained at least 35 people as part of a probe into alleged supporters of a US-based cleric who is accused of a plot against the Turkish president, local media has reported.

    Police raided several addresses on Tuesday in the western coastal city of Izmir and arrested the men, including high-ranking officials and police officers, the private Dogan news agency said.

    The operation comes just two days after Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) swept back to power by winning almost half of the vote in Sunday's election.

    A strengthened AK Party government is expected to speed up efforts to crack down on loyalists of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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    A former ally of Erdogan turned arch-enemy, Gulen is charged with "running a terrorist group" which launched a probe into the president's inner circle in 2013.

    He is due to go on trial in absentia in January.

    Erdogan accuses Gulen of trying to topple him by persuading allies in Turkey's police force and judiciary to launch a vast investigation into government corruption in December 2013, which led to the resignation of four ministers.

    Turkish authorities responded by purging both the police force and judiciary of pro-Gulen elements and arresting several news editors and businessmen.

    The movement had supported the AK Party when it came to power in 2002, but the relationship between the Gulen and president degenerated as Erdogan became increasingly worried about what he viewed as the cleric's bid for influence.

    'Armed revolt'

    Two editors of a left-oriented Turkish news magazine have also been arrested by a court in Istanbul, according to court documents shared on Nokta magazine's Twitter account and national media reports.

    Cevheri Guven and Murat Capan had been referred to court for arrest by a prosecutor earlier on Tuesday.

    The two men were arrested by the court for inciting "armed revolt against the Turkish government," the semi- official Anadolu Agency said.

    The latest issue of the magazine said on its cover: "November 2: Beginning of Turkey's civil war."

    Nokta announced the ruling on its website and Twitter account, adding that the police took all the magazines at its headquarters and began gathering the issues already out at distribution centres.

    'Media intimidation'

    Turkey's Western allies have voiced deep concerns over media intimidation in the run-up to the election that returned Erdogan's party to power.

    How will Turkey’s president consolidate his power?

    The US and two European observer missions expressed concern over the campaign, particularly the crackdown on media critical of Erdogan.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the US was "deeply concerned that media outlets and individual journalists critical of the government were subject to pressure and intimidation during the campaign".

    "We have both publicly and privately raised our concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Turkey," he said.

    His remarks echoed the findings of European election observers.

    While voters were given a choice between genuine alternatives, "the rapidly diminishing choice of media outlets, and restrictions on freedom of expression in general" caused "serious concerns", said Ignacio Sanchez Amor, head of an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission.

    "Unfortunately, the campaign for these elections was characterised by unfairness and, to a serious degree, fear," said Andreas Gross, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation.

    However, the overall verdict of the OSCE was that the elections were mainly free and fair.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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