TURKEY LATEST: Authorities round up thousands of suspected plotters

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen

Turkish authorities have rounded up 3,000 suspected plotters and ordered thousands of judges detained after thwarting a coup by rebels using tanks and attack helicopters to try to topple President Tayyip Erdogan.

For several hours overnight on Friday violence shook Turkey’s two main cities, as the armed faction which tried to seize power blocked a bridge in Istanbul and strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara.

At least 265 people were killed. An official said 161 of them were mostly civilians and police officers, while the remaining 104 were coup supporters.

So far 6,000 people have been detained in relation to a failed coup, with more detentions expected, broadcaster NTV said on Sunday, citing Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag.

“The judicial process on this will continue,” NTV reported Mr Bozdag as saying.

Mr Bozdag said he was confident that the United States would return Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey.

The Turkish president has blamed Mr Gulen and his followers for the failed military coup on Friday night, but Mr Gulen denies any involvement in or knowledge about the attempted coup. The US says it will look at any evidence Turkey has to offer against Mr Gulen, and judge accordingly.

Mr Bozdag said: “The United States would weaken itself by protecting him. It would harm its reputation. I don’t think that at this hour, the United States would protect someone who carried out this act against Turkey.”

But Fethullah Gulen, the man accused by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the attempted military coup that rocked Turkey, has tried to turn the accusation against his political rival by suggesting that Mr Erdogan’s ruling AKP party had staged the uprising.

In a rare interview from his residence in rural Pennsylvania with the Financial Times and a small group of other reporters, a frail Mr Gulen said accusations by Mr Erdogan that he had masterminded the uprising were absolutely groundless.

“I don’t believe that the world takes the accusations made by president Erdogan seriously,” the moderate Islamic preacher said from a room inside his home at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Centre, nestled in the rolling hills of the Pocono Mountains.

“There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup [by Mr Erdogan’s AKP] and it could be meant for further accusations” against Gulenists and the military, he said.

Mr Gulen said that he was not worried about being deported from America despite Turkey putting further pressure on the US government to extradite him in the aftermath of Friday’s coup attempt.