ANKARA, Turkey – Authorities on Tuesday suspended some 12,800 police officers from duty over their suspected links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen as Turkey pressed ahead with its vast crackdown on a network it says is behind the country’s July 15 failed military coup.
Meanwhile, a pro-Kurdish television station said police raided its headquarters in Istanbul and forced it off the air following an order last week for it to be shut down.
Both moves came a day after Turkey announced it was extending by three more months a state of emergency it declared in the aftermath of the failed coup. The existing declaration has aroused fears that the government is using its emergency powers to clamp down on critics.
In a brief statement posted on its website Tuesday, the Turkish police headquarters said the suspended officers were allegedly “in cohesion with or connected to” Gulen’s movement. It said 2,523 of them were police chiefs.
The state of emergency, declared on July 20, allows the government to rule through decrees. Tens of thousands of people have been dismissed or suspended from government jobs in the military, police, judiciary and the education ministry since it was imposed.
Around 32,000 people allegedly connected to the failed takeover attempt have been arrested, including dozens of journalists employed by Gulen-linked news outlets.
Authorities have closed schools, charities, foundations and medical establishments associated with the movement and also appointed trustees to manage Gulen-linked businesses.
IMC-TV was one of 12 mostly-Kurdish television stations ordered closed last week over alleged security threats. They included a station that broadcast children’s cartoons in the Kurdish language.
The station said on its website that police raided its headquarters in Istanbul during a live broadcast on Tuesday and sealed off the control room.
Station employees protested the raid, chanting, “Free press is a right” and “Free press cannot be silenced.”
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the coup attempt that led to at least 270 deaths.
Turkey, however, wants him returned to stand trial for conspiring to bring down the government and has also requested that he be held in custody until U.S. courts decide on his extradition to Turkey.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters Tuesday that Turkey had received intelligence that Gulen was seeking a third country to which to escape in the event the United States agrees to extradite him.
“We have intelligence that (Gulen supporters) are looking for a suitable country or place,” Bozdag said.
A report in Hurriyet newspaper on Tuesday said the countries under consideration include Brazil, Belgium and Canada.