Turkey detains dozens for suspected links to US-based cleric

Turkey detains dozens for suspected links to US-based cleric

ISTANBUL — Twenty-five people were detained in Turkey and more than 200 police officers temporarily suspended for suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen according to reports Thursday, as part of a massive sweep on the network of the alleged coup plotter.

Gaziantep governor’s office in southeastern Turkey announced in a statement that more than 70 raids took place to apprehend 106 Gulen operatives called “secret imams” in the last two days. The detained are being held on suspicion of “membership in an armed terror organization” and “recruiting members.”

Forty-one suspects were still on the run, according to the statement. Five are abroad.

On Wednesday, 1,120 “secret imams” accused of directing followers within the police were detained in simultaneous police operations in all of Turkey’s provinces.

The official Anadolu news agency announced that 1,157 people have been detained.

The Daily Hurriyet newspaper reported that Turkey’s intelligence agency cracked a microchip retrieved during a previous detention, which allegedly contained a 7,000-person list of “secret imams” and other Gulen followers working in state institutions.

Anadolu reported the suspension of 236 police officers from their jobs in seven provinces Thursday. Anadolu said they were being investigated for connections and communications with the Gulen network, which Turkey deems a terror organization threatening national security.

Turkish police announced late Wednesday the suspension of 9,103 police personnel. It was unclear if the 236 officers were part of the wider suspension.

The moves are part of a massive crackdown following last summer’s failed coup attempt, which Turkey says was orchestrated by Gulen’s movement, leading to the arrest of more than 47,000 people and the dismissal of an estimated 100,000 civil servants. Gulen has denied the accusations.

The German government slammed the detentions Wednesday, and Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament Thursday that “there is no question that the developments of the past weeks have strongly strained German-Turkish and European-Turkish relations.”

The Associated Press