Turkey has ordered the detention of 304 military personnel in an operation targeting supporters of the Muslim preacher that the government says was behind a failed coup in 2016, state-owned media said on Tuesday.
In 2016, a group of officers attempted a coup to overthrow the government of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara blames the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen’s network for the failed attempt in which some 250 people were killed.
Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999. He denies involvement in the coup attempt. However, operations against his network are regularly performed in Turkey.
Tuesday’s operation was initiated by the prosecutor’s office in the Izmir province and was spread over 50 provinces, local media said. The suspects, including five colonels and 10 captains, were reportedly believed to be in contact with people with links to Gulen’s network.
Since the coup attempt, about 80,000 people have been held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been fired or suspended. More than 20,000 people had been expelled from the Turkish military.
Erdogan’s government has been repeatedly criticised by rights groups for attempting to silence the opposition. The government, however, says the crackdowns were necessary and in line with the rule of law.