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Turkey issues arrest warrant for Gulen
From the Financial Times of Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:18:41 GMT
Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic opinion leader and founder of the Gulen movement©EPA

Fethullah Gulen

Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for Fethullah Gulen, a retired cleric at the heart of a titanic clash with the government, in the latest stage of a confrontation that has shaken the country’s politics during the past year.

The court-issued warrant accuses Mr Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania in the US, of leading an illegal organisation that sought to capture control of Turkish state posts — a reference to the religious movement he heads, which has numerous followers in the Turkish bureaucracy and elsewhere.

The move paves the way for a formal extradition request to the US — a step Turkey’s leaders have suggested in the past. Some US officials privately say such a request is unlikely to succeed because of the intensely political battle between Mr Gulen and his ally-turned-enemy, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s paramount leader, as well as doubts about the rule of law in the country.

Mr Erdogan says that anti-corruption probes launched against his circle of intimates by police and prosecutors just over a year ago were a coup attempt against the government and has charged the Gulenists of forming a “parallel state” following orders from Pennsylvania.

Mr Gulen and his supporters have ridiculed such charges and denied any link with the corruption inquiry, which burst into the open on December 17 2013, but which was subsequently derailed, and ultimately dropped, after Ankara reassigned thousands of police, prosecutors and judges.

Ahead of the anniversary of the December 2013 raids, Mr Erdogan said that he would venture into the Gulenists’ “lairs” to combat the “parallel state” and singled out Gulenist media and businesses as areas of particular concern.

His warning was swiftly followed by the arrests last weekend of the editor of Turkey’s best-selling newspaper and the head of a leading television network, both of which are affiliated to the Gulen movement.

Both men — Ekrem Dumanli, the editor of the Zaman newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, chief executive of the Samanyolu Media Group — have also been charged with membership of an armed terrorist organisation. They deny the charges. The case involves an alleged Gulenist campaign against a rival Islamic movement, a campaign that allegedly featured derogatory references in Zaman and in a Samanyolu soap opera ahead of mass arrests of the Gulenists’ rivals.

At a court hearing on Friday, Mr Dumanli was released pending trial while Mr Karaca was formally assigned to prison ahead of the case.

The US, the EU and many non-governmental organisations have condemned the moves against the two men as a violation of the fundamental right to a free press. Despite Mr Erdogan’s role spearheading the campaign against the Gulenists, Turkish ministers insist the arrests are purely judicial and police matters, rather than actions by the government itself.

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