ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained the producer of a film on the life of President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, accusing him of ties to the Muslim cleric Ankara says orchestrated last year’s attempted coup, state media said.
His arrest came a day after the release on social media of a trailer for a new film by Ali Avci entitled “Awakening”, about the failed July 15 putsch. Ceremonies have been arranged for Saturday commemorating the action in which 249 people died.
State-run Anadolu news agency said Avci was accused of membership of the “Gulenist Terror Organisation” (FETO), as Turkey refers to the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, an ally-turned-foe of Erdogan.
Anti-terror police seized Avci at his Istanbul home and also seized another man identified as a fugitive sought for being a user of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app Ankara says was used by Gulen’s followers, the agency added.
Turkish media said the trailer for his new film had caused public uproar as it portrayed Erdogan’s family shot dead and an army officer pointing a gun at the back of the president’s head as he prayed.
Avci’s earlier film “The Chief” was released in March ahead of an April referendum on boosting the president’s powers. The film portrayed Erdogan in largely admiring terms as a child and as Istanbul mayor when he was jailed for reciting a religiously themed poem.
More than 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 150,000 state workers including teachers, judges and soldiers have been suspended or dismissed under emergency rule imposed in late July after the coup.
The government says the crackdown and constitutional changes are necessary to address security threats. More than 240 people were killed in last year’s coup attempt. Rights groups have voiced concern about stifling of dissent under the crackdown.
Gulen, who has denied involvement in the coup, told Reuters in an interview this week he had no plans to flee the United States and would accept extradition if Washington agrees to a request by Ankara to hand him over.
Writing by Daren Butler