Turkish courts have placed 32,000 suspects under arrest on charges of links to a group run by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 coup, the justice minister said.
Bekir Bozdag told Turkey’s NTV television on Wednesday that 70,000 people had been investigated after the coup and of them 32,000 remanded in custody.
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“This process is continuing,” he said. The numbers of those arrested marks an increase of more than 10,000 from those previously given by the government.
Bozdag said that there could be new arrests, while some of those currently arrested could still be freed under judicial control or freed entirely.
Some 10 weeks after the coup attempt aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led to an unprecedented crackdown, there is still no indication as to when trials might start.
The trials of tens of thousands will be the biggest legal process in Turkey’s history and are set to put the system under immense pressure.
“It is not entirely clear how the trials will be carried out,” Bozdag acknowledged.
He said trials would take place in cities across the country and not in one single venue.
Bozdag said there was no need to create a special trial venue in Istanbul as capacity was sufficient. But he said one was needed in Ankara and work is taking place for a trial venue at Sincan outside the capital.
“People are not going to be put on trial in just one place but trials will take place in all of Turkey,” he said.
US officials will respond to Turkey’s demand to arrest Gulen within a couple of days, the justice minister added.
Turkey wants the US to extradite Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, and prosecute him for masterminding the attempt to overthrow the government on July 15. The 75-year-old preacher denies any involvement.
Washington has previously said it is cooperating with Ankara and asked its NATO ally for patience as it processes the extradition request to meet US legal requirements.