ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Executives of a major Turkish company were among 100 people detained by police on Monday over allegations of funding the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a foe of President Tayyip Erdogan, prosecutors and company officials said.
The raids were the latest police operations targeting thousands of supporters of the U.S.-based cleric, accused of leading what prosecutors described as a “Gulenist Terror Group” trying to overthrow Erdogan. Gulen denies the accusations.
Two board members of the Dumankaya construction group were named by state-run Anadolu Agency among those taken into custody. Dumankaya said in a statement that its board members had been invited to police headquarters to provide information.
The prosecutor’s office, which did not name Dumankaya, said 100 people have been taken into custody in an operation focused on Istanbul and carried out across nine provinces. A total of 140 arrest warrants were issued.
Those held are accused of membership and funding of a terror group and spreading terrorist propaganda in relation to the misuse of funds collected by Gulen followers in 2014-2015, it said.
Gulen and Erdogan were allies until police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gulen opened a graft investigation into Erdogan’s inner circle in 2013. Thousands of police officers, prosecutors and judges were sacked or reassigned for alleged links to Gulen.
Among those held on Monday were 41 employees of Islamic lender Bank Asya, founded by followers of Gulen and seized by the government last year, the prosecutor said.
“Money was collected exploiting religious feelings and was not used for the purpose promised to people who made donations,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Companies ranging from media and mining to furniture and cable-makers having been investigated and executives detained.
Media outlets linked to Gulen have been seized and some closed.
Western governments, concerned for stability in a NATO country facing spillover from conflict in Syria, as well as domestic opponents have expressed concern at what they see as Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent and opposition in Turkey.
Dumankaya has grown strongly in recent years and plans investments of over 1.5 billion lira (369.67 million pound) this year, targeting a rise in sales to 750 million lira this year from 463 million last year, according to its website.
Erdogan accuses Gulen of creating a “parallel state” and conspiring to unseat the government with a network of supporters in the judiciary, police and media. Gulen, whose adherents run schools in Turkey and abroad and are active in the media sector, denies the charges.
A total of 2,261 people have been rounded up in operations in 48 provinces across Turkey targeting the financial activities of Gulen’s followers, the pro-government Milliyet newspaper reported at the weekend, citing police data.
As well as businessmen, those detained include police officers, civil servants and teachers. Milliyet said the number of those detained would increase in the coming days.
A Turkish court in December 2014 issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, accusing him of heading a criminal group.
Additional reporting by Birsen Altayli and Ebru Tuncay; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Ralph Boulton
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