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Interior minister says 254 people arrested over Gülen links since he took office

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Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya has announced that 254 people have been arrested due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement since he took office two months ago, the private DHA news agency reported.

Yerlikaya, a former İstanbul governor, was appointed interior minister in a new cabinet announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 3 after his victory in the presidential election in May. Yerlikaya succeeded Süleyman Soylu, who was appointed interior minister in August 2016 following a coup attempt in July 2016 and was known as the architect of post-coup operations.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the failed coup in 2016, and labels it as a terrorist organization. Gülen and his movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch and any terrorist activity.

Yerlikaya, who spoke in the western province of Manisa over the weekend, said a total of 254 people have been arrested as a result of 1,020 police operations targeting the movement’s followers since he took office two months ago.

Among those arrested due to Gülen links is an elderly man in Manisa who is almost totally disabled.

The arrest last week of 86-year-old Mustafa Said Türk, who suffered a brain hemorrhage and became paralyzed and bedridden in 2018, attracted widespread criticism from some opposition politicians and rights activists.

Türk was first sent to prison to serve his 10-year sentence over links to the Gülen movement and was subsequently hospitalized.

Türk’s 10-year sentence was recently upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Although his lawyer requested a stay of execution of the sentence, citing old age and severe illness, it was denied by court.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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