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Turkey Detains Dozens Linked to US-Based Islamic Cleric, Erdogan Foe

FILE - Thousands of people gather in solidarity outside Zaman newspaper in Istanbul after a local court ordered that Turkey's largest-circulation, opposition newspaper — which is linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen — be placed under the management of trustees, March 4, 2016.

Turkish police detained dozens of people for their alleged financial links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported Monday.

The police operation, centered in Istanbul, was launched across nine provinces, and more than 100 people were taken into custody. Altogether, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 140 people.

Among those detained are the officials of the Istanbul-based Dumankaya Construction Company and 41 employees of the Islamic lender Bank Asya, which was founded by followers of Gulen and seized by the government last year.

The probe is centered on financial support raised for Gulen's group amounting to some 50 million liras ($17 million) between 2004 and 2015.

Turkey's Organized Crimes Unit detained the suspects on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, laundering assets acquired and terrorism finance statutes.

According to Fortune magazine, the Dumankaya Company is the 224th biggest company in Turkey.

FILE - In this March 15, 2014, file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
FILE - In this March 15, 2014, file photo, Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.

"As has been reported by the media, on April 18, 2016, our members of the board were invited to the [Police's] Financial Department in order to be consulted for their information," the company said on its website. "The process is being followed by us."

The political conflict between the ruling AKP (the Justice and Development Party) and the Islamic Gulen movement, known as the "Hizmet" (Service) movement, began in late 2013 after a major corruption and graft investigation led by Istanbul prosecutors against four ministers became public.

Gulen history, reaction

The Gulen movement was once among President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's most enthusiastic supporters and the Gulen-affiliated media groups backed government policies.

But Gulen, 74, ran afoul of the military-backed secular government in Ankara and sought refuge in the United States.

The government accuses the Gulen movement of infiltrating the police, judiciary and political system and creating a state within a state.

Gulenists have been charged in recent years with setting up an armed terrorist group, trying to bring down the government, and wiretapping.

In December 2014, Turkish police arrested several journalists and media executives close to the Gulen movement on charges of "forming, leading and being a member of an armed terrorist organization."

Gulen followers decried Monday's detentions.

"The latest detentions and arrests of taxpaying ordinary citizens sympathetic to Hizmet movement are only the continuation of a troubling authoritarian pattern in Turkey under the leadership of President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu," the Washington, D.C.-based Turkic American Alliance (TAA), affiliated with the Gulen movement, said in a statement to VOA.

"Erdogan and his friends are intolerant of any form of dissent," the statement said. "We are extremely worried about this antidemocratic trend and call on the international community to press Ankara to respect the rights of all opposition and minority groups in Turkey in accordance with universal human rights norms and international legal commitments."

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