Journalist Tuncay Ozkan (C) shares an emotional moment with his daughter Nazlican (L) and his wife Duygu (R) after being released from prison outside the Silivri prison complex near Istanbul March 10, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
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Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen said a crackdown on his followers by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was "ten times worse" than anything meted out after coups by the secularist military.Erdogan has accused Gulen's Hizmet ("Service") network, which has built quiet influence in the police and judiciary over decades, of orchestrating a graft investigation which has grown into one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule. Turkey's army, self-appointed guardians of secularism, toppled four governments in the second half of the 20th century before Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party brought a decade of economic and political stability.Opinion polls suggest Erdogan has retained his popularity despite the graft scandal and power struggle with Gulen, drawing on the country's strong economic growth under his rule.Erdogan will be looking to match or exceed the AKP vote of 39 percent in comparable municipal elections five years ago, helped in part by the continued weakness of political opponents. Erdogan has slammed those behind the graft scandal as "leeches", decrying what appears to have been the wiretapping over years of thousands of phones including his own by a "parallel state" bent on using blackmail to wield influence.
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