Former rector, academics among 23 detained in new gov’t witch hunt operation

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Twenty-three people, including academics and a former rector, were detained in three provinces on Monday as part of a government-backed witch hunt operation targeting the faith-based Gülen movement.

Former rector of the Kahramanmaraş-based Sütçü İmam University, Professor Fatih Mehmet Karaaslan, and some other academics teaching at the same university were among the detainees in police raids carried out on some addresses in Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep. The chairman of the Kahramanmaraş-based Lale Education and Cultural Association was also detained during the operations.

The detainees are reportedly accused being a member of the so-called the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY),” which is used by the government-backed judiciary to frame sympathizers of the Gülen movement, a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
“Parallel state” is a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in December 2013 to refer to people believed to be inspired by the ideas of Gülen, especially those within the state bureaucracy.

Since a corruption investigation that implicated figures close to the government, as well as government members themselves, came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013, there have been many similar police operations carried out targeting shopkeepers, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.

Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the graft scandal. Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity during the course of the investigation. Erdoğan said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement.

The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it. There is not a court decision which declares the movement as a terrorist group either.

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