The Turkish government has ordered the arrests of 249 foreign ministry personnel over allegations of irregularities in the ministry’s past entrance exams, the pro-government Anadolu Agency (AA) reported on Monday.
The order for the arrests was given by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office, which said that, following investigations, the 249 members of the ministry were found to have committed irregularities in its past entrance exams held in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
According to the AA report, at least 105 of the suspects were detained on Monday as part of operations carried out across 42 provinces and Turkish police continue to seek the remaining suspects.
The pro-government AA also reported that the personnel has suspected links to the Gulen movement, whose followers Turkish authorities believe have infiltrated state institutions.
The movement and its leader Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric living in self-imposed exile since 1999, has been blamed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government for orchestrating the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016.
Although Gulen strongly denies allegations that he or his movement was behind it, Turkish authorities have since then carried out regular operations against alleged followers of the movement.
The faith-based Gulen movement is regarded by the Turkish government as a terrorist organization.
As part of the purges targeting the movement in the aftermath of the coup attempt, more than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.
A total of 557 personnel alleged to have links to the movement were dismissed from the Foreign Ministry, where a total of 6,251 personnel were employed.
Turkey’s Western allies, as well as right groups, have voiced concerns over the crackdown led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They allege that the putsch was used as an excuse by Turkey’s Erdogan to eliminate critics of his AKP government.