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Pro-gov’t journalist says gov’t readying for operations against other religious groups

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Nevzat Çiçek, a pro-government journalist, has said Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate and state intelligence agencies are conducting significant research on religious communities in Turkey and that police operations targeting these groups are likely to be conducted soon.

In an interview published by the Habertürk daily on Monday, Çiçek said operations would soon be carried out against religious communities that are not “pro-nation.”

The journalist’s remarks came following recent operations targeting Adnan Oktar, a notorious religious cult leader, TV personality and creationist.

Oktar was detained on July 11 along with more than 150 of his followers on various accusations ranging from child abuse to forming a criminal organization. His assets were also seized by the state.

Çiçek said the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate and intelligence agencies are looking to see whether a specific religious group is “pro-nation,” relies on Islamic teachings and has no problems in serving the country.

“If so, then, there is no problem. But if these religious groups, congregations and foundations are serving as foreign sources’ tool under a religious name, if they pose a risk to national security, impose their own understanding of religion by manipulating the religion’s original sources, if they have no benefit to the ummah and the country, they will be eliminated,” said Çiçek.

The Turkish government has already been waging an all-out war against the faith-based Gülen movement, which it accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016 although the movement denies any involvement.

The movement has been designated a “terrorist organization” in Turkey, and thousands people have been jailed by the courts so far on charges of being a follower of the movement. According to the Justice Ministry, more than 200,000 people have been investigated for Gülen links.

Some 160,000 civil servants were dismissed from their jobs in the aftermath of the coup attempt, while thousands of Turkish nationals applied for asylum in other countries.

Elaborating on government plans concerning religious groups in Turkey, Çiçek said there are some groups that can be rehabilitated and some that cannot.

He said those that can be rehabilitated will be because they have followers and eliminating them will prompt their followers to continue their activities illegally.

“We all know that when they [religious groups] grow too much, they become uncontrollable,” added Çiçek.

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