Turkish Police Raid Nation’s Largest Courthouse, Arrest 136 for Gulen Links

Fethullah Gulen

The crackdown on alleged supporters of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen continues in Turkey, where police have arrested 136 out of a total of 173 court staff at the Palace of Justice, the nation’s biggest courthouse.

The Turkish government confirmed the Monday raid in Istanbul, noting that it also included two other courthouses in the city, though the Palace of Justice by far the most prominent. Those arrested are accused of having ties to Gulen, who the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of having staged a failed coup against him on July 15. 37 people with warrants to their names working for the Istanbul courts are still at large.

In addition to the judicial staff, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency confirmed that two judges have been suspended from serving for suspected ties to Gulen. Judges Koksal Celik and Cetin Sonmez have both been suspended in connection with the release of a professor arrested for allegedly being a member of Gulen’s movement.

Another prosecutor, Ekrem Beyaztas, was arrested after being found traveling towards the Syrian border. He is also suspected of being a member of the Gulen movement and fled following the issuing of an arrest warrant in his name.

Turkish police have also acted against private actors this week, targeting businesses it believes fund Gulen’s organization. Police raided Akfa Holding, a corporation involved in construction and architecture, acting on 120 warrants against Afka employees, including the owner of the corporation.

Reuters notes that over 35,000 people have been detained and about half of those arrested since the July 15 coup attempt. Including those fired or suspended from their jobs, a total of 100,000 people have been affected by the government’s crackdown on the Gulen movement.

Among those arrested, detained, or dismissed are many government workers, including a high number of teachers, and members of the media. The government has shut down 131 media outlets in connection to the investigation into the failed coup attempt.

Fethullah Gulen is headquartered in Pennsylvania, from where he runs a chain of Islamic charter schools across the United States. He describes himself as the founder of a movement he calls “Hismet” dedicated to public service. Erdogan’s government accuses Gulen of being a “cult leader” who uses the schools for indoctrination, and has employed its members to establish a “shadow government” in Turkey, siphoning real political power from Erdogan. American authorities have raided some Gulen charter schools, acting on investigations that revealed gross financial misconduct, though he has not been accused of any terrorist activity in the United States.

The Turkish government has made multiple official requests for the United States to extradite Gulen, and prosecutors are seeking a 2,000-year sentence for him as the alleged orchestrator of the July 15 coup attempt. American officials have responded that they need time to review the extradition request but will consider it.

Gulen denies any involvement in the failed coup.