April 26 (UPI) — The Turkish interior minister announced that over 1,000 people suspected of links to a Turkish cleric were detained Wednesday by police and intelligence officials.
The raid concentrated on “secret imams” in police forces who are allegedly loyal to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspects Gulen orchestrated a 2016 coup attempt, and has since attempted to purge the Turkish government, educational system and military of his suspected supporters.
More than 100,000 people have been dismissed from their positions since July, and critics say the purge has led to dismissals of journalists, academics and Erdogan’s political opponents, The Washington Post reported.
The detentions Wednesday involved 8,500 police officers and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization.
“A total of 1,009 ‘secret imams’ have been detained so far in 72 provinces,” announced Interior Minister Suleyman Solyu.
The action comes as Turkey faces international scrutiny after an April 16 referendum, giving Erdogan increased powers, was narrowly approved by voters. It changed Turkey’s government from a parliamentary to a presidential system. Opponents say it reinforces Erdogan’s already tight hold on the country. The government rejected widespread reports of vote fraud; the referendum was approved by 51 percent of voters.