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Iran Press TV

Turkish cleric to stand trial over Erdogan graft scandal

Iran Press TV

Tue Jan 5, 2016 2:12PM

A US-based outspoken opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to go on trial along with dozens of former police officers for exposing a corruption scandal surrounding the country's leader three years ago.

Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, will be tried in absentia at Istanbul's main courthouse on Wednesday.

Gulen is charged with 'attempting to bring down the government' and 'running a terrorist group', his lawyer Nurullah Albayrak said.

Erdogan has accused the cleric and his followers of plotting to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gulen launched a graft probe against the Turkish leader's inner circle in 2013, leading to the resignation of the ministers of economy, interior and urbanization.

Gulen is also accused of giving orders to allies in Turkey's police force to launch the investigation. However, his lawyer said that the evidence included in the 1,453-page-long indictment did not support the claims against the cleric.

'There is no evidence that this was a terrorist organization. The charges are based on assumptions and on simple declarations and these are not enough,' Albayrak said,

The only proof is a phone conversation between Gulen and a police officer the day the scandal broke, but "there is no indication that he is giving orders to anyone," he added.

Prosecutors are seeking an aggravated life term - the highest penalty possible in Turkey - for Gulen as well as two ex-police chiefs.

The other 66 suspects involved in the case also face jail terms from seven years to 330 years.

Over the past months, the Turkish government has intensified its crackdown on the supporters of Gulen and carried out raids on pro-Gulen media.

Since the summer of 2014, approximately 1,800 people have been arrested as part of a crackdown against the followers of Gulen, while some 280 of them being still in jail pending trial, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

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