21 imams, muezzins detained in anti-Gülen operation in Sakarya

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BURSA, TURKEY - JUNE 10: An imam leads the first Friday Prayer during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque in Bursa, Turkey on June 10, 2016. Ali Atmaca / Anadolu Agency

Twenty-one employees of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate working as imams and muezzins in the northwestern province of Sakarya were detained on Wednesday due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The religious officials were detained as part of an investigation overseen by the Sakarya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the Gülen movement.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which launched a war against the Gülen movement following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 in which senior government members were implicated, carried its ongoing crackdown on the movement and its sympathizers to a new level after a failed coup attempt on July 15 that killed 240 people and injured a thousand others.

Although the movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe or the coup attempt, the government accuses it of having masterminded both despite the lack of any tangible evidence.

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a great gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

More than 100,000 people have been purged from state bodies, nearly 76,000 detained and 34,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police officers, military personnel, doctors, court personnel and even a comedian.

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