İsmail Çolak, owner of the famous İsmail’in Yeri (İsmail’s Place) grill restaurant in the northwestern Turkish province of Bolu, has been arrested over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Gazette Duvar news website reported on Friday.
Çolak was sent to the Çilimli Prison in Düzce province.
The businessman left Turkey six months before a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, which the Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.
Çolak’s restaurant, located on Bolu Mountain and a popular spot with travelers, was closed down by the government and a detention warrant was issued for him following the coup attempt as part of a massive crackdown launched by the Turkish government on the followers of the Gülen movement.
Çolak reportedly went to Finland to avoid government pressure on Gülen followers, which began long before the coup attempt. The businessman recently reportedly told Turkish authorities that he wanted to turn himself in and become an informant.
After his request was approved, Çolak returned to Turkey and was detained at İstanbul Ataturk Airport and then transferred to Düzce where he appeared before a judge and was arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.
The Turkish government labels the Gülen movement a terrorist organization, while the movement denies involvement in any terrorist activity.
Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.