ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Istanbul prosecutors ordered the detention of 210 military personnel over suspected links to the network blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed 2016 military coup, the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said on Friday.
It said the suspects from the air, marine and land forces, as well as the gendarmerie and coast guard, included five colonels, seven lieutenant colonels, 14 majors, and 33 captains.
They were suspected of being supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed putsch three years ago. Gulen has denied any role.
More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial since the coup and widespread arrests are still routine. Authorities have suspended or sacked 150,000 civil servants and military personnel.
The prosecutor’s office said it believed the number of Gulen supporters who remained unidentified within the military was greater than those who took part in the coup attempt, and the network still posed the greatest threat to Turkey’s constitutional order.
Turkey says Gulen’s network had infiltrated its military, judiciary and state institutions.
Ankara’s Western allies have criticised the crackdown, with Erdogan’s critics accusing him of using the putsch as a pretext to quash dissent. Turkish authorities say the measures are necessary to combat threats to national security.
The military personnel being sought on Friday were identified by listening to recordings of conversations held on pay phones across Turkey, the prosecutor said.
About 250 people were killed in the failed putsch. Gulen, a former ally of President Tayyip Erdogan, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Separately, state-owned Anadolu agency reported that the Ankara chief prosecutor ordered the detention of 41 people believed to be members of the network. They were suspected of obtaining the questions to a police school exam in 2009, to help their members join the force.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans)