By Daren Butler and Birsen Altayli
Authorities issued warrants against 11 executives and university officials in central Turkey on Wednesday in an operation targeting supporters of a US-based cleric accused by President Tayyip Erdogan of plotting a coup, local media said.
The state-run Anadolu Agency said the move was aimed at the ‘parallel state structure’, which Erdogan accuses cleric Fethullah Gulen of operating in the Rranks of the judiciary, police, media and education.
But the operation is likely to be seen as an attempt by Erdogan to crack down on his opponents less than two months before a snap election. The AK Party which he founded is looking to win back a single-party majority against a background of conflict with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
Government officials have said there are ties between Gulen’s followers – who operate newspapers critical of the government, businesses and schools – and the PKK. Gulen denies such links and describes the PKK as a terrorist organisation.
“In order to get a result in the fight on terror it is essential to bring down the parallel-PKK alliance and fight them at the same time,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said in an interview with the pro-government Sabah newspaper published on Wednesday.
In the police operation in the central Turkish city of Kayseri, warrants were issued for the detention of 11 individuals on charges of ‘organised theft’ and seven have so far been detained, Anadolu said.
It said Memduh Boydak, the chief executive of the unlisted furniture-to-textiles Boydak Holding group, was among those detained. He is also the head of the board of trustees at the city’s Meliksah University.
Memduh Boydak had not been detained but had been summoned by police to make a statement related to the university, the company’s head of corporate communications, Ulas Ozturk, told Reuters.
“This has nothing to do with Boydak Holding,” Ozturk said.
According to its website, the group has annual turnover of more than 6 billion lira ($2 billion) and has more than 13,000 employees.
The police operation follows raids earlier this month targeting Gulen-affiliated conglomerates, mining-to-media group Koza Ipek Holding and Kaynak Holding, involved in publishing and logistics.
Turkish financial markets have been rattled by the political uncertainty and by security concerns as conflict has surged between state security forces and PKK militants after the breakdown of a ceasefire in July.