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Official of Turkish university set up to cleanse military arrested for coup ties -newspaper

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ANKARA (Reuters) – An administrator of the Turkish military university established by President Tayyip Erdogan to help clean up the armed forces after a 2016 failed coup has been arrested over alleged links to the putsch, the Cumhuriyet newspaper said on Tuesday.

Authorities formally arrested Colonel Kadir Atakan of the National Defence University after detaining him some two weeks ago, the newspaper said. He was a director in charge of organisational matters at the school, which is not yet fully operational, the paper said.

Erdogan had ordered the establishment of the university after the July 2016 coup attempt, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and warplanes in attempt to seize power. It was set up to replace the previous military academies, which were closed by an official decree after the failed putsch.

Turkish police declined to comment. University officials and prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ankara blames U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement in the attempt in which more than 240 people were killed.

Since then, Turkey has detained 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants, the U.N. human rights office said in March. Of that number, more than 50,000 have been formally charged and kept in jail during their trials.

The scope of the crackdown has alarmed rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies, who accuse Erdogan of using the failed putsch as a pretext to quash dissent. The government, however, says the measures are necessary to combat threats to national security.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan)

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