Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday reiterated an earlier call he made to Turkish people, calling on them to report followers of the faith-based Gülen movement in their surroundings to the police and prosecutors’ offices so that they can be prosecuted for their links to the movement.
Speaking at a public rally in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, Erdoğan said: “If there are those among you who follow the ‘charlatans’ in Pennsylvania, give up from this. I am appealing to my citizens, if you know some people who follow those ‘charlatans,’ report them to police stations and prosecutors’ offices and we will do what is necessary.”
Erdoğan was referring to Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. Gülen is the figure who inspired the Gülen movement, a grassroots organization which runs many schools and charities across the world and promotes inter-faith dialogue.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and President Erdogan that launched a war against the Gülen movement, following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 in which senior government members were implicated, carried their ongoing crackdown on the movement and its sympathizers to a new and controversial level after a failed coup attempt last month.
Although the movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe and the coup attempt, the government accuses it of having masterminded both despite the lack of any tangible evidence so far.
Since the coup attempt on July 15, some 82,000 people have been purged from state bodies, 40,000 detained and 20,000 arrested on the grounds that they had links to the movement. Arrestees included journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors, businessmen and even a comedian.