Turkey detains 1,000 in new anti-Gulen crackdown

Indicating that the numbers detained were set to rise, interior minister Suleyman Soylu said the raids were continuing.

Members of the Turkish police escort suspects of the Gulen movement during nationwide operations in Kayseri city, Turkey, on April 26, 2017. Turkey conducted raids across the country, one of the largest operations in months, arresting over 1,000 people suspected of being connected to the movement loyal to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen who has been blamed for the failed coup in July 2016. Olcay Duzgun/EPA
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ISTANBUL // Turkey detained more than 1,000 alleged supporters of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen on Wednesday, the biggest crackdown since president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory in a referendum that would expand his powers.

The dawn raids across the country came just a week after Mr Erdogan narrowly won public blessing for controversial changes to the constitution to create a presidential system.

They are the latest indication there will be no let-up in the fight against Turkey's perceived enemies after the referendum, with fighter jets on Tuesday pounding Kurdish militant targets in Iraq and northern Syria.

A total of 1,013 suspects have so far been detained in raids throughout Turkey’s 81 provinces, the official Anadolu news agency said.

Anadolu said 4,672 suspects were sought — of whom 1,448 are already in jail. That means a total of 3,224 arrest warrants were issued.

Turkish authorities blame Mr Gulen for masterminding the July 2016 failed military coup that aimed to oust Mr Erdogan from power but he denies the charges.

About 8,500 police officers were involved in the nationwide operation, Anadolu reported.

Indicating that the numbers detained were set to rise, interior minister Suleyman Soylu said the raids were continuing.

“It is an important step for the Turkish Republic,” he added.

The Yes camp won 51.41 per cent of the vote in the April 16 referendum but opponents claim the result would have been reversed in a fair poll.

Turkey’s main opposition party — the secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP — said on Wednesday it would challenge the outcome of the referendum at the European Court of Human Rights a day after a high court rejected its appeal.

Analysts have said that following the poll, Mr Erdogan faces a choice between confrontation and reconciliation with the nation deeply divided.

Turkey accuses the Hizmet movement Mr Gulen leads of being a “terror organisation” although the group insists it is a peaceful organisation promoting moderate Islam.

The government has repeatedly asked the US to extradite Mr Gulen, who has been living in exile there since 1999.

About 47,000 people have already been arrested in Turkey under a nine-month state of emergency in place since the coup bid, a crackdown whose magnitude has raised alarm in the West.

German foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer on Wednesday criticised the mass detention saying: “We don’t believe arresting 1,000 people so long after the putsch is really proportionate.”

He said Germany believes the failed coup needs to be fully investigated “but the measures must adhere to the rule of law”.

The Turkish parliament just ahead of the referendum extended the state of emergency by another three months to July 19.

The Hurriyet newspaper reported that arrest warrants had been issued against a total of 7,000 suspects across Turkey, citing unidentified sources.

The suspects are so-called “secret imams” of Mr Gulen suspected of infiltrating themselves into the police or other state institutions, it reported.

* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press