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Turkey issues arrest warrants for hundreds of suspected Gulenists

Erdogan has been heavy handed against dissenters following the 2015 failed coup attempt [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 March, 2018

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Prosecutors issues arrest warrant for hundreds of suspected Gulenists as Ankara's crackdown widens.

Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 243 suspected Gulenists, a group authorities blame for the failed 2016 coup attempt.

Ninety-two of the 243 targeted are teachers that worked in schools previously tied to the US-based religious cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Gulenists are named after.

In a separate operation in the Konya region, Turkish authorities issued warrants for 84 people suspected of Gulenist ties.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor also ordered the arrest of another 57 people - they had reportedly used ByLock, an encrypted messaging service widely used by Gulenists.

Friday's arrest warrants come on the heels of a Turkish court convicting on Thursday a musician-turned-columnist of “knowingly and willingly” aiding Gulenists, sentencing him to three years in jail.

Singer Atilla Tas became a social media phenomenon after posting satirical tweets about Erdogan. He was on trial with others – mostly journalists – accused of having links to Gulen.

Because Tas has already served jail time, he is not expected to return to prison.

“The judicial process has not ended. I believe that I will be acquitted in the end, you should believe it too. I did nothing other than oppose (the government),” he tweeted.

The same court also convicted journalist Murat Aksoy for two years. Other defendants were also convicted of belonging to a “terror organisation,” with prison terms ranging from six months to seven-and-a-half years.

Following the July 2016 failed coup attempt, Turkey enacted a state of emergency. More than 50,000 people have been arrested and over 150,000 fired or suspended from public posts in the coup's aftermath.

More than 100 journalists were imprisoned and some 150 media outlets shuttered since.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 151st out of 180 countries on its press freedom index.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt.

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