Turkish law enforcement says it has arrested more than a 1000 individuals on 26th April who were reported to have secretly penetrated the police throughout the country on the behalf of a U.S based cleric that the Turkish government has blamed for the failed coup effort in July last year.
This country-wide action against the suspected followers of the clergyman Fethullah Gulen was amongst the largest of all operations since many months. Gulen, who was a former confederate of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is now under the government’s accusation of trying to overthrow Erdogan by force.
Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu informed that the overnight onslaught was done at a targeted Gulen Network called the ‘secret imams’ which had infiltrated the local police infantry.
So far, from the ongoing operation, a thousand and nine such imams have been arrested in over 72 provinces, said the minister to the reporters in the capital Ankara.
Following the failed coup of July, Turkish authorities detained more than 40,000 people and suspended or fired around 120,000 workers from a vast array of professions, from policemen and soldiers to teachers and public servants, who had alleged unconfirmed links with terrorist organizations.
These new arrests come only over a week after when no more than just enough of Turkish voters supported the proposition of expanding President Erdogan’s already extensive powers in a referendum, which according to observers was smeared with discrepancies.
Now with Executive powers, Erdogan and Prime Minister Yildirim plan to put the senate through an overhaul, a power that no elected official of the state ever had.
These new powers will also lead to the elimination of the Prime Minister’s office by 2019, making the President the supreme authority of all matters in the country.
Through this referendum, Erdogan is also to rejoin the Justice and Development Party that is currently headed by PM Yildirim, which will formally put him in the commanding position of a nation that is the largest economy of the Middle East.
The vote intensely divided the country and Erdogan’s critics are worried of a further drift from such authoritarianism from him, whom they see as someone resolute on disintegrating the democratic and secular structure of modern Turkey.
Instead, Erdogan refutes this by claiming that giving more power to the presidency will curb instability which often accompanies a coalition government. This, he argues, is especially important now at a time when the country faces a number of different problems which include threats from Kurdish and Islamist militants.
President reminded the reporters on Tuesday that the objective of the attempted coup was to topple the authorities and destroy the state.
He remarked that the government is working towards cleansing the armed forces, police and the judiciary system from FETO members, an acronym for the Gulenist Terrorist Organization, used by the government for Gulen’s supporters.
Erdogan paralleled the fight against Gulen with the state’s war against ISIS and the Kurdish PKK fighters, both of which are considered terrorist organizations by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey.
He also added that the government will continue its endless efforts to keep up the values and liberties of the Turkish people which are part of a Democratic nation. However, he clarified that they will also be very committed to continue their fight against FETO, PKK and other terrorist groups like Daesh.
Immediately after the coup, many Turks supported the mass suspensions of the workers as they agreed with Erdogan when he accused Gulen of carrying out the entire revolt which resulted in the death of 240 people, most of whom were civilians. But after the expansion of the arrests, criticism increased.
However, from families of those who were sacked or detained from July onwards say that those people did not have any input or relation with the armed attempt which was aimed at tipping over the government. Instead, it was a strategy of the government to strengthen Erdogan’s control over the country and they are just victims of that.