Erdogan’s newly strengthened government has suspended more than 9,000 police officers over alleged connections to Imam Fethullah Gulen, who President Erdogan accuses again and again, without providing any evidence, of instigating a failed coup against him last July – a charge the cleric, who has lived in New Jersey for many years, denies.
The governing AKP party had many Gulen supporters during the years when Mr Erdogan and Imam Gulen were staunch allies.
Since they split over Erdogan growing desire for more and more power, Erdogan has been constantly seeking to crush his former partner’s religious and educational movement.
Earlier, authorities detained more than 1,000 people in the latest operation against alleged Gulen supporters. As well as the 1,009 detained on Wednesday, arrest warrants were issued for another 3,224 people, as part of a police operation across Turkey’s 81 provinces, reports said.
In the aftermath of the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, which was led by a small number of military officers, 40,000 people were arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended. They included soldiers, police, teachers, judges, and other public servants – all of whom were accused of having links with Erdogan opponents.
The latest purge comes just over a week after President Erdogan narrowly won a controversial referendum on increasing his government’s powers. Opponents fear the victory, which has bitterly divided Turkey, brings him closer to authoritarian rule.
Two days after the referendum, Turkey’s parliament extended a nine-month state of emergency by a further three months.
It was widely expected that the post-coup purge would accelerate once President Erdogan achieved the referendum victory he wanted.
He feels emboldened now since there’s no longer a risk of jeopardizing potential referendum votes. It is true that the opposition contests the referendum results, and their claim of widespread fraud is backed by a scathing report from election observers. The president says the result is final.
The governing AKP party, which was full of Gulen supporters when Mr Erdogan and Imam Gulen were staunch allies hasn’t yet been purged; and could now be targeted. And even if not, the threat will be dangled over potential opponents like a sword of Damocles: speak out and your past Gulen affiliation will be exposed; and you may be fired or jailed.