Officers suspected of supporting the American-based cleric Fethullah Gulen were escorted to the police headquarters in Kayseri, Turkey, on Tuesday. Credit: Olcay Duzgun/Dogan News Agency
ISTANBUL — More than a thousand Turkish police officers, accused of being “secret imams” for an American-based cleric who the authorities have said was responsible for a failed coup in July, were detained on Wednesday in the largest such sweep in months.
About 45,000 people have already been taken into custody since the coup attempt, but the raids on Wednesday represented the first widespread roundup of political opponents since a referendum on April 16 to expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Some analysts had wondered whether the crackdown might slow as Mr. Erdogan attempted to establish greater national consensus after winning the contentious referendum, but the scale of the raids suggested it was just as likely to accelerate. The sweeping purge of state institutions has led to the firing of about 130,000 people.
The interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said officers had detained 1,009 people whom he described as high-ranking members of the Islamic group led by the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. The group is accused of infiltrating many Turkish institutions over the past three decades.
According to Mr. Soylu, the “secret imams” were part of a parallel leadership structure within the police force that was ultimately answerable to Mr. Gulen, whose extradition has long been sought by the Turkish authorities.
The subject of Mr. Gulen is almost certain to be discussed at a coming meeting in Washington between President Trump and Mr. Erdogan, whose government was allied to the cleric’s movement before the two fell out publicly in 2013.
The raids were a “most important step toward uncovering a group that leaked into the police force, trying to rule the police force from outside, trying to establish an almost alternative police organization, ignoring the rules of the state,” Mr. Soylu said, in remarks quoted by Anadolu, the state-owned news agency.
The crackdown has targeted not just those believed to be “Gulenists,” but also leftist and liberal dissidents, including journalists, soldiers, judges, lawyers, teachers and professors. Some people have been purged simply for placing their children in Gulen-owned schools or for putting their money in Gulen-owned banks.
The arrests on Wednesday followed the detention of 38 opposition activists who were questioned last week in connection with their involvement in protests about accusations of voter fraud in the recent referendum.
(c) 2017 The New York Times