Jul 06 2018

Turkey seeks 271 soldiers for terrorism offences

Turkey ordered 271 soldiers detained on suspicion of supporting the Fethullah Gulen movement, classified as a terrorist organisation by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Anti-terrorism police launched the operation early on Friday in dozens of provinces across Turkey. The soldiers were allegedly in contact with the movement, Reuters said, citing local media reports.

Turkey blames Gulen, an ageing Islamic preacher, and his group of orchestrating a failed military coup in July 2016 and has requested that the United States extradite him from his home in Pennsylvania. Gulen, a former political ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denies the charges.

Star newspaper, which is close to the government, said most of those to be detained were serving soldiers who included 10 colonels. A retired general was also among the suspects, it reported. The operation against the military officers was one of the largest since the failed coup. Some political commentators believe that there is still significant opposition to Erdogan's rule among secular and Western-orientated military personnel.

Turkey has detained more than 150,000 people since the coup attempt and more than 75,000 have been formally charged and remain in jail during their trials under a state of emergency that allows extended incarcerations for suspected terrorists. The arrested people also include Kurds and leftist activists and intellectuals who oppose Erdogan’s attempts to introduce one-man rule to Turkey.

Erdogan, in a victory speech upon his re-election on June 24, vowed to intensify the crackdown on terror and Turkey’s enemies, both domestic and foreign. He now enjoys wider presidential powers approved in a national referendum in April 2017. His governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) is in a political alliance with the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP).