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Turkish Police Detain 13 Academics, Activists in Raids

FILE - A Turkish riot police officer's handcuffs are pictured at the entrance of a courthouse in Istanbul.

Turkish police on Friday detained 13 academics, businesspeople and journalists as part of an investigation into an association that was headed by a jailed businessman and activist, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.

Anadolu Agency said professors Betul Tanbay and Turgut Tarhanli of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and Bilgi universities and journalist Cigdem Mater were among those detained in simultaneous police operations in Istanbul and in three provinces.

They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman who was arrested a year ago, accused of attempts to “abolish” the constitutional order and the government. No indictment has been issued against him.

Anadolu said police are searching for seven other people linked to the association, which says it aims to promote peace and minority rights through culture.

The group is suspected of trying to bring down the government by fomenting “chaos and disorder” through their alleged involvement in efforts to expand a wave of anti-government protests that erupted in Turkey in the summer of 2013, according to Anadolu. Authorities suspect that Kavala used the association, as well as a foundation that he also headed, to finance and organize efforts to broaden the protests, the agency reported.

Since an attempted coup in 2016, Turkey’s government has been accused of stifling freedom of expression for arresting thousands of people for alleged connections to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed attempt, or links to terror groups. It has purged many more people from state institutions and jailed dozens of journalists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Kavala “Turkey’s Soros,” a reference to American billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations have funded education, health, justice and media projects around the world. Pro-government media in Turkey accuse Kavala of engaging in anti-government conspiracies.

Eleven prominent activists, including Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups.

Separately on Friday, police detained 86 people, most of them former Air Force personnel, in operations across Turkey and were looking for 100 others for alleged links to Gulen’s movement, Anadolu reported.

More than 15,000 people have been purged from the military since the coup, Turkey’s defense minister has said.

The cleric denies involvement in the coup.