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Yildiz Technical University academics purged over suspected 'Gulenist' ties

Istanbul academics have been detained in raids on supposed followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of a coup plot. Tens of thousands of "Gulenists" in government, schools and the military have been purged.

Police detained at least 73 academics at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul on Friday as part of an ongoing crackdown in the wake of the failed July coup attempt, Turkey's state-run Anadolu agency reported. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office issued 103 warrants for suspects in the last part of the probe, in part based on information the academics had used ByLock, an instant messaging application whose security was compromised by Turkish intelligence.

Police searched the academics' homes and offices; the suspects were taken to hospital for routine health checks and then to Istanbul police headquarters, the agency reported. The raids come a day after judicial authorities dismissed 203 judges and prosecutors over alleged links to what Ankara terms the "Gulenist Terror Group."

Rights groups and the European Union have voiced concern at the scope of the purges, fearing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to curtail dissent.  The government has dismissed tens of thousands of civil servants and more than 20,000 from the military. Around 35,000 people are jailed. Ankara has simultaneously stepped up measures against other opponents, including media outlets and pro-Kurdish groups, with more than 100 journalists behind bars along with 10 members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) for alleged links to armed Kurdish groups, a charge the HDP denies.

UN: Political climate in Turkey is 'grim'

This comes the same day as the UN rapporteur on freedom of expression expressed alarm over the country's "grim" climate during a visit to Ankara. "The conclusions I would say are fairly grim and reflect what I think is a deep sense of restriction on freedom of opinion and expression throughout the country," David Kaye told reporters on a visit to Ankara. He said it was clear that Turkey faced threats from Islamist and Kurdish militants. "But this does not mean that the government has in a sense a blank check to do anything it wants to restrict freedom of expression. Freedom of opinion is not subject to any restriction... We have seen across the board that restrictions interfere with different aspects of life in Turkey."

In all, more than 100,000 people within the judiciary, media, military and civil service have been arrested, suspended or sacked since the failed coup attempt last July.

jar/ (dpa, Reuters)

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