Turkey takes aim at bank inspectors and financing in latest purge

August 19, 2016 9:31 AM EDT

U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo

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By Ebru Tuncay and Tuvan Gumrukcu

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish authorities detained dozens of bank inspectors and academics on Friday and the government vowed to cut off financing to companies suspected of having ties to last month's failed coup.

Turkey has detained some 40,000 people in its investigation into the July 15 attempted putsch, which it says was orchestrated by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. He denies the charges.

Around 20,000 people have been formally arrested. The investigation has led to a sweeping purges of the military, civil service, police and judiciary, with around 80,000 people removed from public duty. While purges of the civil service continue, the private sector is now being targeted.

The extent of the purges has unnerved Turkey's Western allies, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan may be using investigations to stifle dissent.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said the government was in talks with banks to cut off funding to firms linked to Gulen.

"The cutting off of terror financing... is critical," he told broadcaster TRT Haber. "We are talking about a few hundred companies, this is not enough to impact the economy seriously."

Police on Friday detained 29 inspectors from the BDDK banking watchdog, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The banking investigators were detained on suspicion of making "irregular" investigations into the account of a government-related foundation and those of business people, including targets close to Erdogan, Anadolu said.

A spokesman for the BDDK, which regulates Turkey's banking sector, was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities on Thursday ordered the detention of nearly 200 people, including leading businessmen, and seized their assets in an operation targeting a Gulen-linked business association.


Erdogan has vowed to choke off businesses with ties to Gulen, describing his schools, firms and charities as "nests of terrorism". Authorities say 4,262 such companies and institutions have been shut.

Also on Thursday, a court in the central Turkish city of Kayseri appointed state administrators to take over the businesses of the energy-to-furniture Boydak group, which has 14,000 employees, Anadolu said. The group's top executives have already been formally arrested.

Erdogan has long accused Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, of running a "parallel network" inside government institutions and the military. Gulen has denied that charge and condemned the coup attempt.

Gulen's organization, which advocates philanthropy, interfaith dialogue and science-based education, has followers across Turkish society. It helped Erdogan in the first years after his Islamist-rooted AK Party was elected in 2002.

But the two men later fell out after police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to the cleric opened a corruption investigation into Erdogan's inner circle in 2013.

Authorities also detained dozens of academics and issued a total 145 arrest warrants for university staff in operations focused on Istanbul University and Konya in central Turkey, Anadolu said.

At Istanbul University, 44 academics were detained and their rooms and homes were being searched, it said. Another 18 of their colleagues were set to be detained.

Prosecutors in Konya issued arrest warrants for 83 academics, of which 29 have so far been detained in an operation stretching across 17 provinces, the agency said. Among those facing arrest was the former rector of Konya's Selcuk University, who Anadolu said was currently on the run.

(Reporting by Ebru Tuncay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan and Daren Butler; editing by Patrick Markey and Ralph Boulton)

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