ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan signaled a fresh campaign against supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen on Friday, vowing to pursue them “in their lairs”.
The pledge came a year after the emergence of corruption investigations targeting Erdogan’s inner circle which he said was a plot to topple him orchestrated by a “parallel structure” of supporters of Gulen. The cleric, a former ally of Erdogan, denies the charge.
“We have gone into their lairs and we will go into them again. Whoever is beside them and behind them, we will bring down this network and bring it to account,” Erdogan told a business forum in Ankara.
The corruption probe, which became public with police raids on Dec. 17 last year, led to the resignation of three ministers and prompted Erdogan to purge the state apparatus, reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.
He also pushed through legislation increasing government control of the judiciary, most recently a law restructuring two top courts. Prosecutors have meanwhile dropped the corruption cases.
Erdogan last stepped up his battle with Gulen ahead of an election in August which he won to become the country’s first popularly elected president. His self-declared “witch hunt” against Gulen supporters had apparently subsided, until the latest comments.
The remarks unnerved markets wary of renewed political tensions, adding to pressure on the lira, which hit a two-month low of 2.3 against the dollar. The currency was also hit by a fresh call from Erdogan for lower interest rates.
“Concerns that political tension may rise again as it did on Dec. 17 last year had somewhat of an impact,” a treasury desk manager at one bank told Reuters.
Alluding to an international conspiracy, Erdogan said the “parallel structure” was targeting Turkey’s stability, independence and economy.
“I want my dear nation to know that we are not just faced with a simple network, but one which is a pawn of national and international evil forces,” he said.
Erdogan was speaking a day after a widely-followed Twitter account, which has previously given advance warning of police operations, said police were set to detain some 400 people, including around 150 journalists regarded as Gulen supporters.
No such raids have been carried out but a crowd gathered on Thursday evening outside the offices of Zaman newspaper, close to Gulen, in solidarity with journalists seen as potential targets.
Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Nevzat Devranoglu; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Andrew Roche