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Turkey Jails 20 Alleged Members of Coup ‘Sleeper Cell’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Twenty suspects, including Turkish soldiers and a deputy governor, have landed in jail pending trial, accused of belonging to a “sleeper cell” to be activated if the July military coup attempt had been successful, state-run Anadolu news Agency said Thursday.

The move followed Wednesday’s dismissal of 540 military personnel, mostly officers, from the air force and navy, and the expulsion of 66 judges from their profession as the government presses a purge of the civil and security forces following the July 15 putsch.

Turkey enforced emergency rule in the wake of the attempted coup and began dismissing, suspending and arresting state officials.

It says followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen staged the coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power and seize control of the country. Gulen and his supporters deny the claims, saying he merely runs a peaceful organisation called Hizmet (Service).

Some 32,000 people are in jail, and 100,000 members of the security and civil services, university professors and others have been fired or suspended.

Turkish officials say a suspension is a “precautionary measure” intended to stop suspects from interfering with the official investigation, adding that suspended personnel receive two thirds of their salary.

The latest arrests could raise more questions about the scope of the coup investigation because they target people who prosecutors argue did not have a role in the military intervention.

Rather, they were remanded in custody as they were “suspected of not assuming a duty in the July 15 coup attempt but disguising themselves to take action in the aftermath,” Anadolu reported.