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Erdogan vows to go after businesses linked to coup bid

AP , Thursday 4 Aug 2016
Erdogan
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 4, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Thursday to go after businesses linked to a US-based Muslim cleric he accuses of having been behind Turkey's failed July 15 coup.

The Turkish government characterizes the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, as a terrorist organization. The movement runs schools, charities and businesses internationally. Gulen has denied any responsibility or prior knowledge of the coup.

"Without doubt, this organization has an extension in the business world. Maybe it is what they are most powerful at," Erdogan said during a speech to the heads of chambers of commerce in Ankara. "We are determined to totally cut off all business links of this organization, which has blood on its hands."

The president said that every cent that goes to the Gulen movement "is a bullet placed in a barrel to be fired against this nation. In the same way that we do not pardon those who fire the bullet, we will not forgive those who financed the bullet."

The Turkish government has launched a sweeping crackdown on the movement since the attempted coup, with nearly 70,000 people suspended or dismissed from jobs in the civil service, judiciary, education, health care, the military and the media. About 18,000 people have been detained or arrested on suspicion of being involved in the failed putsch.

Erdogan added that the purge of the military would continue.

"After July 15, this sneaky organization's structure in the Turkish Armed Forces has started to be uncovered," he said. "For now, those who are captured are the tip of the iceberg. Efforts are continuing for others."

Separately, the deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, Mehdi Eker, said countries around the world need to take action against schools or other establishments linked to Gulen.

Eker said the cleric's movement had hundreds of schools, charities or other establishments in more than 100 countries and warned they too could face "security risks" from the group in the future.

"If we had seen that these schools were not innocent educational nests but nurseries raising members for a terror organization, we would not have lived through the (attempted coup)," he told journalists in Ankara.

"It is our responsibility to warn countries that have (Gulen-linked) schools," Eker said. "In Africa, we know that they work as nurseries (for terror) and we want to warn them."

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