Turkish authorities on Friday launched a new operation to arrest dozens of prominent suspects in a vast probe into the activities of a U.S.-based preacher who is the main foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Prosecutors issued 65 arrest warrants, with raids carried out in Ankara, Izmir and several other cities, the official Anatolia news agency reported.
Just five people have been detained so far, with 43 suspects believed to have already fled abroad, it added.
Anatolia said that the operation was aimed at the alleged leadership of the group headed by the Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who the president now accuses of forming parallel state in a bid to overthrow him.
Among those targeted by the arrest warrants are the former head of the pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper Ekrem Dumanli, the businessman Akin Ipek, as well as clerics and university lecturers.
It was not immediately clear which of the suspects were currently believed to be abroad.
Gulen went into exile in 1999 to escape charges levelled by the former authorities that were eventually dropped.
He built up a vast array of interests in finance, the media and private education as well as enjoying influence in the police and judiciary.
The authorities now refer to his group, which calls itself Hizmet (Service) as the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO), and accuse it of trying to overthrow the government.
But Gulen supporters ridicule the claims, saying their only crime is to oppose Erdogan and press for their vision of combing Islam and progressive values.
The current campaign against Gulen dates back to December 2013 when the government blamed him for sensational corruption allegations against Erdogan’s inner circle and has since accused the ageing preacher, believed to be 74, of trying to overthrow the authorities.
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