Turkey labour ministry sacks 785 employees since failed coup: minister

September 22, 2016 4:05 AM EDT

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's labour ministry has so far sacked nearly 800 employees over links to a U.S.-based cleric blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup in July, the minister said on Thursday.

Around 100,000 people in the military, civil service, police and judiciary have been sacked or suspended following the July 15 coup attempt, when a group of rogue soldiers attempted to topple the government.

Turkey blames followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen for the coup and has demanded his extradition from the United States. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

The scope of the crackdown has alarmed rights groups and some of Turkey's Western allies, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the failed coup as a pretext to crack down on dissent and also to go after those suspected of being sympathetic to Kurdish militants.

Labour Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told reporters his ministry had sacked 785 people and was investigating a further 319 over possible links to Gulen's movement. It has also reinstated 383 people suspended after the coup, he added.

Separately, more than 100 court employees have been detained at a courthouse in Istanbul on suspicion of being linked to Gulen, broadcaster Haberturk reported.

Erdogan accuses Gulen, a former ally-turned-arch-foe, of building a "state within a state" that threatens Turkey's democracy and national security.

At a speech at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, Erdogan urged world leaders to take action against Gulen's network, saying it posed a threat to their security too.

(Reporting by Ercan Gurses and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones)



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