Authorities in Turkey have ordered the arrest of 149 people, mainly from the security forces, over suspected links to a failed coup in 2016, according to state media.
The prosecutor’s office in the western province of Balikesir ordered the arrest of 74 people, all previously let go from the security forces, state-run Anadolu Agency said on Monday. Among them were six former police chiefs.
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Meanwhile, prosecutors in southeast Gaziantep and western Bursa provinces respectively I ordered the arrest of 33 people, including 24 security forces personnel on active duty, and 42 people, including six soldiers on active duty.
Authorities have carried out a sustained crackdown on alleged followers of United States-based Muslim religious leader and businessman Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara has accused of masterminding the failed coup in July 2016.
Gulen denies any involvement. A former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Erdogan has for years accused Gulen’s supporters of establishing a “parallel state” following its own agenda by infiltrating the police, judiciary, military and other state institutions.
Since the coup attempt, tens of thousands of people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others let go or suspended from their jobs.
Turkey has been condemned by its Western allies and rights groups over the crackdown, purges and erosion of judicial independence following the failed coup bid.
Critics accuse the government of using the incident as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.
The government says that the purges and arrests are in line with the rule of law and aim to remove Gulen’s supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.