Turkey to Arrest Over 150 Navy Officers, Teachers, Unionists Over Alleged Gulen Ties

Gulen, a cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement in the July 2016 failed coup in which more than 240 people were killed

FILE PHOTO: Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, July 29, 2016.
\ CHARLES MOSTOLLER/ REUTERS

Turkish prosecutors ordered the arrest of 154 people including navy officers, teachers and unionists over alleged links to the Islamic preacher accused of orchestrating a 2016 attempted coup, state media said on Friday. 

Police launched operations across five provinces to detain 16 naval officers, seven of them serving and nine previously expelled from the armed forces, over links to the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, Anadolu news agency reported.

In a separate investigation, the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office ordered the arrest across Turkey of 66 teachers, previously removed from their posts, over links to Gulen’s movement, Anadolu said.

It said 72 officials from a labor union confederation which had been closed under a government decree were also set to be detained in a third probe across more than a dozen provinces.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement in the July 2016 failed putsch in which more than 240 people were killed.

Under a crackdown since then, more than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial over alleged links to Gulen, while 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the military, public and private sectors.

The government dismisses rights groups’ concerns about the crackdown, saying only such a purge could neutralize the threat represented by Gulen’s network, which it says infiltrated institutions such as the army, schools and judiciary.