At least 4,167 people in 110 countries are being investigated in Turkey over their links to the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.
An arrest request issued by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office for three Turkish nationals, forcibly returned from Gabon to Turkey earlier this month, has revealed that Turkish prosecutors are investigating 4,167 people in 110 countries over their links to the movement.
The three men were detained after being brought to Turkey in a joint operation by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and local Gabonese law enforcement.
The Istanbul prosecutor demanded that the court overseeing the trio’s case arrest them, saying that 4,167 people including the three have been under investigation for some time.
Eighty people affiliated the Gülen movement have been captured and brought to Turkey from 18 countries, Turkish government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ said on April 5.
The Turkish government accuses the group of masterminding a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, although the movement denies any involvement. More than 120,000 people have been detained and some 55,000 put in pretrial detention, while over 145,000 have lost their jobs amid the government’s post-coup crackdown on people deemed to have ties to the group.
A number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lawyer Hüseyin Aydın said earlier this month that Turkish intelligence officers could be involved in more abductions around the world “in the coming days.”
A total of 14,640 Turkish nationals claimed asylum in European Union countries in 2017, according to Eurostat data. The corresponding number was 10,105 in 2016 and only 4,180 in 2015.
“With reports of Turkish intelligence activities in multiple countries, including other kidnapping plots, governments should become much more willing to offer Turkish citizens asylum and must look very skeptically upon Turkish government requests for arrest and extradition,” Freedom House’s Nate Schenkkan wrote in The Washington Post on April 1.
Meanwhile, US-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the arrest of Turkish nationals in Kosovo showed a callous disregard for human rights and rule of law.
The statements by HRW and Freedom House came on the heels of an MIT operation that captured six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working for a group of schools affiliated with the movement in Kosovo.