Turkey raids top courts to arrest alleged coup plotters: agency

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Police raided Turkey’s top court of appeals on Friday, armed with arrest warrants for 189 judges and prosecutors, and swept on other courthouses as part of a crackdown on state officials following a failed coup, state media reported.

Members of police special forces keep watch from an armored vehicle in front of the Justice Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

The chief prosecutor in Ankara sought the latest arrests of members of the judiciary at the justice ministry and other courthouses, including judges working at the Court of Cassation, the top court of appeals, and the Council of State, the highest administrative court, Anadolu news agency said.

More than 32,000 people are in jail and 100,000, including top military figures, have been dismissed from jobs in the security and civil services for their alleged links to a religious network the government says staged the July 15 military coup.

The scale of the purges has drawn criticism from opposition politicians and Western allies that President Tayyip Erdogan, who faced possible assassination on the night of the coup, may be using the coup to consolidate his power.

Accused mastermind, U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, denies involvement in the unsuccessful coup that killed 240 people who resisted it and around 100 rogue troops.

An official at the main Ankara courthouse was unable to confirm the report, and no one answered the phone at the press office.

The judges and prosecutors were accused for their alleged use of a smart-phone messaging app called ByLock, Anadolu said.

The intelligence agency identified some 56,000 users of ByLock, which they say Gulen’s followers began using in 2014. Authorities have detained hundreds of police and members of the bureaucracy in the past week due to their alleged use of ByLock.

Police detained the prosecutor in charge of the local coup investigation in the central Turkish city of Konya after discovering he used ByLock, Star newspaper reported on Friday.

The Education Ministry on Thursday removed 2,400 teachers from their posts as part of the coup-plot investigation, Anadolu reported. The Turkish Armed Forces sacked 109 military judges on Thursday, the Defence Ministry said.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Nick Tattersall/Jeremy Gaunt/Ralph Boulton