Turkish authorities have suspended 1,500 prison personnel and arrested dozens of others working in the judiciary over alleged links with a US-based religious leader whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed July coup attempt.
Speaking at an event in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday, Bekir Bozdag, the justice minister, said more than 1,000 prison personnel and guards were “temporarily suspended” to remove individuals linked to the Fethullah Gulen network in Turkish prisons, but could be sacked if concrete links were found.
Turkish authorities also issued dozens of arrest warrants for staff in the judicial and prison systems.
Prosecutors in the Turkish city of Istanbul have sent out warrants for 87 people working in Istanbul courts and 75 wardens and other staff working in prisons, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday.
There have been regular raids against staff suspected of links to the failed coup in courts, but this is believed to be the first time that the prison system has been targeted.
Police raided Istanbul’s main court in the district of Caglayan and also those in Gaziosmanpasa and Buyukcekmece in search of the suspects.
Arrest warrants were also issued for staff at the prisons of Silivri, Metris and Bakirkoy in Istanbul as well as their homes.
It was not yet clear how many people had been detained in the raids so far.
Those targeted are suspected of links to Gulen, who had lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999.
Gulen denies the claims, saying he merely runs a peaceful organisation called Hizmet (Service).
Turkey’s government, who had a close alliance with Gulen in the early years of its rule, say his supporters infiltrated all sectors of society including the military with the aim of launching the coup that took place on July 15.
The coup attempt was defeated when supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to the streets.
Erdogan returned to Istanbul unharmed.
But the state of emergency after the coup has raised tensions between Turkey and the European Union, which has expressed concerns over the scale of the crackdown that has seen 32,000 people arrested .
Since the failed coup attempt, more than 77,000 people, including soldiers, judges and prosecutors, have been investigated, some of them temporarily detained.
Thousands of soldiers, teachers, journalists, civil servants and academics have also been suspended or dismissed from their jobs as a result of their alleged links to Gulen’s network.
Turkish government also shut down thousands of schools, companies, television channels and newspapers for their alleged links to “terrorism” since the failed coup attempt.
Erdogan said this week that the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt should be extended at least for another three months when it expires in October.