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Iran Press TV

Turkish president sues opposition party leader over Gulen comments

Iran Press TV

Thu Mar 29, 2018 05:14PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed a lawsuit against the leader of the main opposition party over "baseless" comments linking him to the US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the failed coup of 2016.

Huseyin Aydin, a lawyer for Erdogan, said on Thursday that the president was seeking 250,000 lira ($63,000) in damages from the head of the People's Republican Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

"We have filed a lawsuit because of Kilicdaroglu's unfair and baseless accusations directed towards our president," Aydin said on Twitter.

This comes after Kilicdaroglu said in a speech to members of his party in Ankara this week that Erdogan had been closer to Gulen than any other Turkish politician.

"The number one political arm of Gulenist network, the number one defendant, is the person who occupies the presidency," he said.

Back in April last year, Kilicdaroglu accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of having prior knowledge of the failed 2016 putsch, saying Ankara carried out a "controlled" coup in an attempt to exploit its outcomes.

Gulen was once a close ally of Erdogan's government, but they fell out in recent years.

In mid-July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Ankara has since accused Gulen, 76, of having orchestrated the failed coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country's institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.

The cleric has since strongly rejected any involvement in the coup attempt against Erdogan. However, Ankara labeled his transnational religious and social movement as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).

Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Thousands of people have been detained on charges of links to Gulen's movement in the security crackdown that followed the attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

The UN human rights office said earlier this month that Turkey had detained 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since July 2016.

Gulen has already called on Ankara to end its "witch hunt" of his followers, a move he says is aimed at "weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime."

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

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