Turkish police made a hundred arrests across Istanbul and nine other Turkish provinces connected with a wide-ranging investigation of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen, 72, currently lives in Pennsylvania, but is considered a powerful “arch-foe” of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as the Rudaw news service puts it.
Gulen “runs an international Islamic network of schools, businesses, media outlets, and charity organizations from his exile home in Pennsylvania” and is “believed to be deeply influential in the Turkish judicial system and police,” according to Rudaw.
In fact, he is so influential that Erdogan has accused him of trying to create a “parallel state” to overthrow the government of Turkey. Erdogan and his allies claim that police and prosecutors loyal to Gulen orchestrated a corruption probe that ensnared several senior officials, including Erdogan’s son Bilal. Bilal Erdogan is presently under investigation in Italy for money-laundering charges stemming from the massive 2013 Turkish corruption scandal.
Gulen is currently wanted on a Turkish arrest warrant from late 2014 for “running an ‘armed terrorist group,'” as the BBC reported, suggesting that the U.S. government was “unlikely to act on any extradition request.”
The new arrests are but the latest salvo in the battle between Erdogan and Gulen, which has seen several other mass arrests over the past few years. This might be the biggest action yet, as Deutsche Welle reports “over 2,260 people were rounded up in the operations which took place in 48 Turkish provinces” since the current crackdown began.
Deutsche Welle says 140 arrest warrants were issued this weekend in total, with 101 charges of “terror group” membership. 41 of the detained individuals were executives and employees of Bank Aysa, which was founded by Gulen followers, and seized by the Turkish government last year for providing financial support to Gulen’s organization.
Two other detainees were board members of the Dumankaya constructon group, which Hurriyet Daily News says has “grown strongly in recent years and plans investments of over 1.5 billion liras ($525 million) this year, targeting a rise in sales to 750 million liras this year from 463 million last year.”