Turkish police on Friday detained 19 former police academy students as part of an İstanbul-based operation due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement after prosecutors issued detention warrants for 33 of them, the Demirören news agency reported.
The former students, who were expelled from the academy in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016, are accused of, based on the records of their phone conversations, being in contact with “secret imams,” who according to Turkish authorities are key figures in the Gülen movement’s infiltration of the Turkish military and police force.
The police found that the 10 of the suspects had fled abroad while they were continuing efforts to detain the remaining four.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.
The government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.