Turkey detains nephew of powerful US-based cleric

Muhammet Sait Gulen will be taken to the capital Ankara after he was detained in Erzurum

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Turkey has arrested a nephew of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen after last week's failed coup, state-run media reported on Saturday, the first time any of his relatives has been held in the current crackdown.

Muhammet Sait Gulen will be taken to the capital Ankara after he was detained in Erzurum, the eastern region where his 75-year-old uncle is said to have developed his deep convictions, close to his birthplace of Korucuk.

Erzurum is thought to be home to many Gulen supporters and members of his Hizmet movement, which Turkish authorities say was behind the bloody attempted power grab on July 15.

A senior aide to the cleric, Hails Hanci, was also detaine later on Saturday. Security forces detained Hanci in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, the official said, describing Hanci as a "right-hand man" of Gulen and responsible for transferring funds to him. Gulen denies being behind the failed coup.

Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based arch-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is accused of “masterminding” the putsch through his movement, a claim he strongly denies.

The nephew was detained in connection with the coup, which Turkey says was organised by the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation”, state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

Anadolu said he was also wanted over the leak of questions from 2010 civil service exams.

In May this year, another nephew of the former imam in self-imposed exile was detained in connection with schools run by the movement, according to a state media report at the time.

In Erzincan, another province believed to be home to many Gulenists, an investigation was launched on Saturday into 263 civil servants while 45 people were arrested, Anadolu reported.

Followers of Gulen have held prominent positions in Turkey's security and civil services, media and business -- although less so after purges of recent years.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained, sacked or suspended in the wake of the failed coup.

In a new tactic against suspected coup plotters, Turkey on Saturday announced it had seized more than 2,250 social, educational or health care institutions and facilities that it claims pose a threat to national security.

Turkey has imposed a three-month state of emergency and detained or dismissed tens of thousands of people in the military, the judiciary, the education system and other institutions.

Turkish leaders allege that supporters of Gulen, infiltrated state agencies and groomed loyalists in a vast network of private schools as part of an elaborate, long-term plan to take over the country.

Some European governments say they are concerned that Turkey's large-scale purges could jeopardize basic freedoms. Turkish officials have said they will respect the rule of law, though some commentators wonder whether the purges are targeting opponents of Erdogan who had nothing to do with the coup, thereby strengthening his power.

The Turkish treasury and a state agency that regulates foundations have taken over more than 1,200 foundations and associations, about 1,000 private educational institutions and student dormitories, 35 health care institutions, 19 labor groups and 15 universities, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.

Those institutions “belong to, have ties with or are in communication with” the Gulen movement, according to a decree published on Saturday in Turkey's official gazette.

Turkey has criticized the United States for not immediately handing over the cleric for prosecution, though President Barack Obama said there is a legal process for extradition and encouraged Turkey to present evidence.

Judges, military personnel, prosecutors and other civil servants who have been dismissed will lose any gun and pilot licenses, and will have to vacate any publicly funded residences where they live within 15 days, according to the decree. Those dismissed cannot work in the public sector and cannot work for private security firms.

The decree also extended the period that suspects can be detained without charges up to 30 days. All detainees’ communications with their lawyers can be monitored upon order of the public prosecutor’s office.

(AFP and The Associated Press)

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