(This story published on Dec. 10 corrects date of declaration as a terrorist network to May 2016 in last paragraph)
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for 55 people, including businessmen, suspected of giving financial support to the network of the U.S.-based cleric Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed military coup in July, broadcaster NTV said.
The businessmen suspected of being linked to the cleric’s network allegedly carried large sums of cash, which they have called a “favor”, back and forth between Turkey, Tanzania, Uganda and Kazakhstan since 2014, NTV said.
Ankara accuses the cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the July 15 coup bid, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, fighter jets and helicopters to attack the parliament and attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement and condemned the coup.
Police from the Istanbul financial-crimes unit conducted operations in 57 separate addresses on Saturday to root out sympathizers of Gulen, NTV said. Authorities have detained some of the suspects in the operations, while others are still being sought, NTV said, adding that some were found to be using Bylock, a smartphone messaging app which Ankara says was used by Gulen’s adherents as a communication tool.
Turkey has so far jailed some 36,000 people pending trial and has suspended or dismissed more than 100,000 people from the military, judiciary, civil service and others in the crackdown.
Turkey’s Western allies have voiced concern at the extent of the purges under President Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly rejected such criticism, saying Ankara is determined to root out its enemies at home and abroad.
Turkey classified Gulen’s movement, which espouses philanthropy, interfaith dialogue and science-based education, as a terrorist network in May 2016. It says Gulen’s followers spent four decades infiltrating the bureaucracy and security forces in a bid to eventually take control of the state.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, editing by Louise Heavens