Turkey's ally Azerbaijan probes Gulen supporters

AFP , Monday 15 Aug 2016

(File Photo)Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound, in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.(AP)

Turkey's ex-Soviet ally Azerbaijan on Monday said it has launched a criminal investigation into the supporters of US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for last month's abortive coup.

"In order to prevent illegal actions on the territory of Azerbaijan by the supporters of the terrorist organisation of Fethullah Gulen, the prosecutor general has launched a criminal case," spokesman Eldar Sultanov told AFP.

He said investigators have begun "actions" on the case, without elaborating. It is unclear how many people might be prosecuted in the case.

Gulen is accused of ordering the July 15 coup during which a group within the military tried to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power, a claim he strongly denies.

Azerbaijan last month shut down a private television channel over plans to broadcast an interview with Gulen, "in order to avoid provocations aimed at damaging the strategic partnership between Turkey and Azerbaijan."

Gulen's Hizmet movement has affiliated schools around the world, including in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, normally funded by wealthy Turkish businessmen.

They insist it is an informal grouping promoting moderate islam and development, but their critics see them as a shadowy organisation with an unaccountable influence in Turkey.

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