Turkey detains dozens nationwide over alleged Gulen links

Prosecutors across the country issued 267 arrest warrants. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2018
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Turkey detains dozens nationwide over alleged Gulen links

  • 137 suspects had been detained including 55 in Istanbul
  • Prosecutors in the Turkish capital sought the arrest of 48 individuals over their alleged use of an encrypted messaging application called ByLock

ANKARA: Turkish police on Tuesday detained nearly 140 people in nationwide raids over alleged links to the group blamed for the 2016 failed coup, state media reported.

Prosecutors across the country issued 267 arrest warrants, according to state news agency Anadolu, as part of different investigations into followers of US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Police launched operations in 24 provinces including Izmir and Mugla on the Aegean coast and Ordu and Zonguldak on the Black Sea.

By Tuesday morning, 137 suspects had been detained including 55 in Istanbul, Anadolu reported. Ankara accuses Gulen of ordering the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 15, 2016 but he strongly denies the claims.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, stressed that his movement is peaceful, promoting Islam and education.

The probes include one led by the Istanbul public prosecutor into the movement — referred to as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO) — and businesses linked to Gulen. The prosecutor issued 96 detention warrants, Anadolu said.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in the Turkish capital sought the arrest of 48 individuals over their alleged use of an encrypted messaging application called ByLock, which Turkish officials claim was especially created for Gulen supporters.

So far, 35 people including engineers, civil servants and individuals working in the private education sector have been detained in Ankara, the agency reported.

The investigations that led to Tuesday’s raids also focused on Gulen followers’ presence and actions inside the military.

Some of the suspects wanted were soldiers on active duty or sacked military personnel.

Another 16 suspects were charged by an Istanbul court of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” Anadolu reported on Tuesday.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected Gulen links since 2016.

Despite criticism from activists and Ankara’s Western allies expressing concern over the scale of the crackdown, the raids show no sign of slowing down.

Turkish officials insist that the operations are necessary to remove the “virus” that is the Gulen movement’s infiltration of key Turkish institutions.


Film cameras start to roll again in Damascus studios

Updated 58 min 11 sec ago
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Film cameras start to roll again in Damascus studios

  • The film and television business has been hit hard by a war that has killed half a million people

DAMASCUS: On a long-disused film set outside Damascus featuring mud houses, palm trees, alleyways and camels, actors in flowing robes are making a television series that the producers say is part of a gradual revival of their industry.
Like most other sectors of the economy in Syria, the film and television business has been hit hard by a war that has killed half a million people, forced millions from their homes and laid waste to swathes of the country since 2011.
Any films or TV series made by Syrian production houses during the war were rarely bought by the customers in the Gulf and elsewhere that once made up an important part of their market. Actors and directors moved abroad. Studios lay silent.
However, fighting around Damascus ended last year after a series of massive government offensives, reflecting a wider increase in state control around the country, and Syrian studios are starting to work again.
Ziad Al-Rayes, head of the television producers’ association in Syria, said it was again possible to film comfortably and effectively.
“Here you can find four seasons. Here you have mountains, desert, valleys and snow,” he said. It is cheaper to film in Syria than elsewhere, he added.
The television series being produced outside Damascus is about a Sufi cleric called Muhiy Al-Din bin Arabi, and is set in historic Makkah, the holiest city of Islam located in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
It is being made to air in the United Arab Emirates, the producers said. Television series are also being made for broadcast in Lebanon and in Syria’s two closest allies Russia and Iran, the producers’ association said.
The film set was part of a large studio lot that was unused for most of the war and shows signs of disrepair. A nearby set in the same studio is made up like an ancient Roman city.
During the war many famous Syrian actors left the country to work in other Arab states. One well-known actor, 41-year-old Qays Al-Sheikh Najib, is now filming for the first time in Syria for eight years, playing a photographer in a new series called A Safe Distance, which looks at how the Syrian war affected people.
“Syrian actors always tried to keep up their good level and they could maintain their level in the Arab world,” he said.