Turkish authorities have recently detained a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric accused by Ankara for standing behind last weekend’s failed military coup, the state news agency reported on Saturday.
Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999 but has an extensive network of schools, charities and followers in Turkey and elsewhere, denies any involvement in the July 15 coup attempt, in which at least 246 people were reportedly killed.
His nephew, Muhammed Sait Gulen, was detained in the northeastern Turkish city of Erzurum and will be brought to the capital Ankara for questioning. Among possible charges that could be brought against him is membership of a terrorist organization, the state news agency Anadolu said.
It is the first time a relative of Gulen has been reported detained since the failed coup.
President Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen of building a “state within a state” and of plotting to overthrow Turkey’s government, charges the 75-year-old cleric denied.
Turkish authorities have already launched a series of mass purges of the armed forces, police, judiciary and education system, targeting followers of Gulen, who operates an extensive network of schools and charitable foundations.
The first decree signed by Erdogan authorizes the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to the Gulen movement, the Anadolu agency said.
Parliament must still approve the decree but requires only a simple majority, which the government has.
In an address to parliament late on Friday, Erdogan vowed to bring to justice supporters of the Gulenist “terrorist” movement and he urged Turks to continue attending rallies in major cities in support of democracy and against the coup plotters.
More rallies were planned over the weekend in many towns and cities. In Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital, authorities have allowed people to travel for free on the metro system so they can more easily attend the rallies. Video screens on trains show pictures of citizens, or “martyrs”, killed in the violence.
Cars and mini-buses honking their horns drive around the streets until late in the night carrying flag-waving supporters of Erdogan shouting patriotic or religious slogans.
On Friday evening Erdogan held his first meeting since the coup with the head of the national intelligence agency, Hakan Fidan, after complaining of significant intelligence shortcomings ahead of the coup attempt.
Despite media speculation, however, Erdogan did not fire Fidan.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster NTV that Turkey expected to complete within 10 days a dossier requesting Gulen’s extradition from the United States.
Cavusoglu said the link between soldiers involved in the failed coup and Gulen’s extensive network of followers was “very clear”, adding that Turkey would do all it could “politically and legally” to secure his extradition.
The United States has said Ankara needs to provide clear evidence of Gulen’s involvement before it can agree to extradite him
After the coup, Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, a NATO ally and an important partner in the fight against ISIS, but have also expressed concern over the scale of the subsequent purges of state institutions.
Turkish authorities have suspended, detained or placed under investigation more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, teachers, civil servants and others in the past week.