Turkey’s justice minister said Wednesday courts have placed 32,000 suspects under arrest ahead of trial on alleged links to a group run by Fethullah Gulen who is blamed for the July 15 coup, adding the country may have to build new courthouses to cope with thousands of prosecutions.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told NTV television that 70,000 people had been investigated after the coup and of them 32,000 remanded in custody.
“This process is continuing,” he said. The numbers of those arrested marks an increase of more than 10,000 from those previously given by the government.
“There may be new arrests or releases according to the evidence and information gathered in the investigation,” Bozdag said.
Some two-and-a-half months after the coup attempt aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there is still no indication as to when trials might start.
The trials of tens of thousands will be the biggest legal process in Turkey’s history and are set to put the system under unprecedented pressure.
“It is not entirely clear how the trials will be carried out,” Bozdag acknowledged.
He said trials would take place in cities across the country and not in one single venue.
“We will build new courthouses as needed,” Bozdag told NTV.
Bozdag said there was no need to create a special trial venue in Istanbul as capacity was sufficient. But he said one was needed in Ankara and work is taking place for a trial venue at Sincan outside the capital.
“People are not going to be put on trial in just one place but trials will take place in all of Turkey,” he said.
U.S.-based preacher Gulen has denied that he was linked to the coup in any way.
U.S. officials have promised to respond to the extradition request for Gulen in a couple of days, the minister said.
Washington has said it is cooperating with Ankara and asked its NATO ally for patience as it processes the extradition request for the 75-year-old preacher.
On Tuesday, state media said that Turkey has dismissed 87 staff from its spy agency over alleged links to the failed coup, in the first purge of one of the country’s most powerful institutions.
The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has suspended 141 personnel in an internal probe over links to Gulen, who has lived in self-exile in the United States since 1999.
Of these, 87 have now been expelled, the Anadolu news agency said. Criminal complaints have been lodged against 52 of them.
In a separate development, Turkish police detained 41 suspects from a charity organization called Kimse Yok Mu? (Is There Anyone There?) for alleged links to Gulen, Anadolu reported.