ANKARA: Turkish spies working in Sudan have repatriated a businessman accused of links to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen after he was caught in a joint operation, state media reported Monday.
Memduh Cikmaz is accused of giving millions to the movement run by US-based Gulen, who Ankara claims ordered the July 15, 2016 attempt to end President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.
Cikmaz was captured in a joint operation involving Sudanese intelligence after the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) located him two months earlier, security sources told Anadolu news agency.
Cikmaz, with business interests in petrol stations and brick factories, was returned to Turkey early on Monday, the agency said.
He had gone to Sudan in January 2016 but sources told Anadolu he continued to send millions of dollars to the movement.
Cikmaz was accused of “managing an armed terror organization” in a previous arrest warrant. Anadolu described him as the Gulen group’s “money vault.”
The agency said MIT had created a special team to locate suspected Gulenists abroad.
Turkey refers to Gulen’s group as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO) but the movement insists it is peaceful and promotes education, denying any terror links.
Its network stretches from Turkey to Africa and Central Asia to the US.
Gulen denies Turkey’s accusations of involvement in last year’s failed coup.
Ankara launched a widespread crackdown on the group, arresting more than 50,000 people over alleged links since July last year.
During high-level diplomatic visits, Ankara has also urged Pakistan and Tanzania to crackdown on the Gulen network, especially its schools.
Police briefly detain academic
Turkish academic Fikret Baskaya was briefly detained on Monday as part of an operation targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Twelve other suspects were detained along with Baskaya, it said. Further information about the other suspects’ status was not immediately available.
Baris Yarkadas, a lawmaker from the main opposition CHP, wrote on Twitter that Baskaya, 77, had been detained at his home in the capital and that police had seized some of his personal possessions.
Baskaya, who is an author and university lecturer, was later released after giving a statement to police, another CHP lawmaker, Murat Emir, said in a tweet.
He added that Baskaya was detained over an article he wrote on Nov. 7, called “Real Terror is State Terror,” in which Baskaya said Turkey’s Kurds suffered oppression at the hands of authorities. The investigation is ongoing despite Baskaya’s release, Emir said.
Anadolu said arrest warrants had been issued for a total of 17 people on allegations of aiding the PKK and spreading the group’s propaganda on social media. Operations to detain the other suspects were ongoing.