Turkey on Friday detained dozens of academics suspected of backing Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of last month’s failed coup, while pressing ahead with raids on businesses linked to the US-based Muslim preacher.
Turkish prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 84 academics nationwide, the private Dogan news agency reported, while the state-run Anadolu agency said Istanbul authorities were separately hunting 62 academics from the city’s main university.
A total of 74 scholars had been detained so far in both operations, media said.
A large majority of the suspects in the nationwide raids were from Selcuk University in Konya, central Anatolia — a conservative bastion of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — including the university’s former rector, Professor Hakki Gokbel.
To the alarm of its Western partners, Turkey has pressed ahead with a vast crackdown on alleged coup plotters in the wake of July 15 military action seeking to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said this week that more than 40,000 state employees had been detained in the purge, with more than 20,000 remanded in custody.
More than 5,000 civil servants have been dismissed and almost 80,000 others suspended, he added.
Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has a powerful network of influence in institutions such as the judiciary and police and has long been accused of running a “parallel state” in Turkey.
The reclusive cleric, who has lived in self-exile in the United States since 1999, strongly denies he was behind the coup attempt.
Police on Friday widened their probe into alleged Gulen-linked businesses, issuing arrest warrants for 18 more suspects, bringing the total number of those being searched to 205, Dogan reported.
Police launched mass raids Thursday in the commercial hub Istanbul and 18 other provinces into companies with suspected ties to Gulen — the biggest crackdown on business since the failed putsch, with prosecutors ordering their assets to be seized.
Dozens were detained including Omer Faruk Kavurmaci, CEO of the Aydinli Group clothing retailer and son-in-law of Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas, an AKP member.
Police found books written by Gulen during a search of the CEO’s offices, media reports said.
In a series of tweets posted on his official account, Topbas said the judicial process would reveal whether his son-in-law was guilty.
“My son-in-law will receive the punishment he deserves if he had acted contrary to his testimonies,” he wrote.
“I have a clear stance as someone who has walked shoulder to shoulder for 42 years with our president Mr Erdogan.”
Dogan reported that Friday’s fresh raids targeted the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (Tuskon), which has 55,000 members. Prosecutors were already seeking its president, Rizanur Meral.
The suspects are accused of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and “financing the activities” of Gulen.
Erdogan has vowed to cleanse the state from the “cancer” of Gulen’s influence.