Three Turkish nationals detained in Gabon over links to the Fethullah Gulen movement Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup have been brought to Turkey, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, Erdogan vowed to continue to seek supporters of the US-based cleric “no matter where they run.”
“Gabon has returned three important Gulenists to our country. No matter where they run or how much they run, we will go after them,” he said.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, citing security sources, said the suspects were captured in an operation carried out by Turkish intelligence. It said the three were brought back to Turkey and handed to authorities for questioning.
The suspects, identified as Osman Ozpinar, Ibrahim Akbas and Adnan Demironal, were involved in the administration of schools run by Gulen’s network, Anadolu said, adding they were also users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app government says is used by the cleric’s supporters.
It said the three were detained by authorities in Gabon on March 23 and also faced charges of membership of an armed terrorist organisation.
Ankara blames Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, for orchestrating a failed coup in 2016 and carried out a widespread crackdown on alleged supporters of the cleric’s network. Gulen denies any involvement.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, the government spokesman, said last week 80 people suspected of links to Gulen’s network were brought back to Turkey from 80 different countries.
Last month, Kosovo authorities arrested six Turkish nationals linked to schools financed by Gulen’s movement and extradited them to Turkey, prompting Kosovo’s prime minister to dismiss his interior minister and secret service chief. Kosovo’s parliament voted to investigate the arrests.
“We’ve got six Gulenists from Kosovo and three from Gabon. Let’s see where the next ones come from,” Erdogan said.
Since the abortive putsch in July 2016, nearly 160,000 people have been detained and a similar number of civil servants sacked, a United Nations report found last month. Ankara says the measures are necessary given the extent of the security threats it faces, including from Gulen’s network, which it considers a terrorist group.