Istanbul, August 5: Acting tough on the failed coup attempt by a unit of Military, Turkey on Thursday issued a formal arrest warrant of Fettullah Gullen, the alleged man behind the rebellion which killed about 270 people on July 15.
The Istanbul-based court issued the warrant for the US-based Turkish Muslim religious leader. Turkish government says Gulen, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who now lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, masterminded the coup attempt by renegade officers in the Turkish military, and wants him extradited to Turkey.
Gulen, who has denied the government's accusations, denounced the arrest warrant. "It is well-documented that the Turkish court system is without judicial independence, so this warrant is yet another example of President Erdogan's drive for authoritarianism and away from democracy," he said in a statement on Thursday.
Turkey has not yet made a formal extradition request, but the arrest warrant could be a prelude to that process. The US has asked for evidence of Gulen's involvement, and has said the extradition process must be allowed to take its course.
This is the first warrant issued to arrest Gulen in the aftermath of the failed coup. But it is not the first arrest warrant for him in Turkey. In the past, he has been accused of being the leader of an organisation that illegally tapped into the conversations of Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu, the former prime minister.
Turkey has designated Gulen's network, which runs charities, schools and businesses across the world, as a terrorist organisation and has launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup attempt.
Around 26,000 people have been detained or arrested, mostly from the military, on suspicion of being involved in the failed putsch, and an estimated 70,000 people have been suspended or dismissed from jobs in the civil service, judiciary, education, healthcare, the military, and the media.