A total of 40 individuals, including retired colonels, businessmen and shop owners, were detained in simultaneous police raids in seven provinces as part of the massive crackdown on the Gülen movement, which has been labeled as “parallel state” by the government.
The operation, which is based in the western province of Edirne, was carried out by organized crime units early in the morning. The suspects were taken to the Edirne police station after undergoing medical examination. Those taken into custody in other provinces are also expected to be transported to Edirne.
According to reports, the detainees are accused of “obstructing the duties of government officials, forming and running a terrorist organization, being member of a terrorist organization, forgery as part of a terrorist organization’s activities, fraud by exploitation of religious beliefs and sensitivities and financing a terrorist organization”.
“Parallel state” is a term coined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those within the state bureaucracy. The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.
Since a massive corruption scandal that implicated then-ministers of the Cabinet erupted on Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan and the Justice and Development party (AK Party) government claimed that the graft investigation was a “coup attempt” against his government and accused the Gülen movement of being behind it.
The sons of ministers, well-known business people, a district mayor, a director of a state-owned bank, and many high-profile figures, who were arrested as part of the investigation, were released and the prosecutors who initiated the case were later imprisoned as a result of political interference. However, four Cabinet ministers were forced to resign.
The major graft case was closed by other prosecutors who replaced them. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior AK Party figures.
Following the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery scandal, Erdoğan and the government launched a witch hunt against the Gülen movement and its sympathizers. Erdoğan explicitly declared he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. Thousands of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs were reassigned, dismissed or imprisoned either for taking part in the corruption investigation or based on allegations of having links to the movement.
Also there have been many 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.
Last week, Erdoğan announced that he is expecting a Cabinet decision that will officially declare sympathizers of the Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization” in order to put them on trial.
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.