ISTANBUL: Turkish police have ordered a major investigation into the movement run by an influential Muslim preacher locked in a feud with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, over an alleged plot to overthrow the government, a report said Monday.
U.S.-exiled Fethullah Gulen has long been accused by Erdogan of using his Hizmet (Service) movement, whose supporters have strong ties to Turkey’s police and judiciary, to instigate a corruption probe implicating key government allies.
In the written order sent to the police departments in 30 provinces, the movement is accused of working to overthrow Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government and seize control of the state by forcibly abolishing the constitutional order, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
The order, dated June 25, also asks police to inquire whether Hizmet is an armed group or played a role in a string of assassinations that have shocked Turkey in recent years, including the 2007 murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
The investigation marks a significant ramping up of the judicial pressure against Hizmet ahead of next month’s presidential elections, in which Erdogan will be contending to be head of state.
Erdogan has come under intense pressure since the corruption scandal erupted in December, sparking the biggest challenge yet to his 11 years in power after he weathered mass anti-government protests last year.
Gulen owns a network of schools, culture centers and media outlets and was a key backer of Erdogan until the government resolved to shut down his schools.
The prosecutors also asked the police to gather intelligence about members of associations affiliated with the movement, including students at schools owned by Gulen or academics researching on Hizmet.
Erdogan declared his candidacy last week to become the country’s first democratically elected president and is widely expected to win an outright victory in the first round of the polls due on Aug. 10.