Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for an investigation on Wednesday for the main opposition secular party over possible links to the U.S.-based cleric accused of masterminding a 2016 coup attempt.
Ankara accuses Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, of orchestrating the abortive coup d’etat.
The government has carried out a mass crackdown on his alleged supporters following the July 15 coup attempt. Suleyman Soylu, the interior ministry announced last year that more than 500,000 suspected members of the Gulen network have been detained. Ankara calls the group FETO as an abbreviation for a terrorist organization.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu pointed out Erdogan last week as “the political wing” of the movement, blaming him for allowing thousands of Gulenists to be employed in the state institutions.
Being furious with the main opposition leader, Erdogan accused Kilicdaroglu of supporting the group.
“Everyone may have had a role in growing, strengthening and expanding FETO in Turkey. However, it is myself and the AK Party that declared them a terrorist organization and waged a war on them,” Erdogan told on Wednesday.
“We struggled to remove the FETO elements in institutions, and we think that we still haven’t been able to fully eliminate this scheme,” he added. “The state followed FETO everywhere, but it is clear that the CHP headquarters has not been examined enough.”
Gulen and Erdogan, once allies, fell apart in 2013 during a corruption investigation that briefly threatened to engulf the government, which Erdogan blames on Gulen’s network. Erdogan’s government also accuses Gulen of trying to establish a “parallel state” in Turkey.
Shortly after the 2016 coup attempt, Erdogan had said he had been “deceived” by Gulen and his network.
“I also met him (Gulen) in the past, there is no point in trying to hide this,” Erdogan said. “I accept that we struggled to explain the threat from this structure even to our very own circles. But we are the only ones who have relentlessly battled with FETO in a real way,” he said.
Several attempts by the opposition to establish a committee in parliament to look into Gulen’s political connections have so far been rejected by the AKP. Last week, Erdogan filed a 500,000 lira ($82,270) lawsuit against Kilicdaroglu for his comments.
Gulen has denied involvement in the coup attempt, in which some 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Routine operations against Gulen’s network are still a routine across the country.
Rights groups and opposition parties have accused Erdogan of using the coup as a pretext to quash dissent. But the government has said the measures are necessary.