A court in Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for Fethullah Gulen, a US-based opposition cleric blamed by the Ankara government for the failed military coup in the country last month.
The formal arrest warrant was issued on Thursday by an Istanbul-based court, with prosecutors accusing Gulen of having ordered the July 15 coup attempt.
At least 246 people were killed and more than 2,100 others sustained injuries when an army faction, using hijacked helicopters and tanks, clashed with government troops and people on the streets of the capital, Ankara, and the city of Istanbul.
Shortly after the coup bid was declared over on July 16, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Gulen of being behind the coup attempt.
Gulen denied any involvement and warned that the blame game could be a ploy by the ruling Justice and Development Party to cement its grip on power.
So far, tens of thousands have been sacked, suspended or detained as part of the government crackdown on the coup plotters and those linked to Gulen.
Ankara has urged the United States to extradite Gulen, but it has yet to make a formal extradition request to Washington.
Earlier on Thursday, Erdogan said the government will continue to go after businesses linked to Gulen and his Hizmat movement, which is banned in Turkey.
“Without doubt, this organization has an extension in the business world. Maybe it is what they are most powerful at,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara, adding, “We are determined to totally cut off all business links of this organization, which has blood on its hands.”
Erdogan further criticized those making donations to Gulen’s movement, saying every cent that goes to the Gulen movement “is a bullet placed in a barrel to be fired against this nation.”
“In the same way that we do not pardon those who fire the bullet, we will not forgive those who financed the bullet,” Erdogan added.
The government says renegade officers in Turkey’s military who had links to Gulen staged the coup on his orders.
“After July 15, this sneaky organization's structure in the Turkish Armed Forces has started to be uncovered,” Erdogan said, adding, “For now, those who are captured are the tip of the iceberg. Efforts are continuing for others.”