Turkey files lawsuit against US-based Erdogan opponent
Lawyers for the Turkish government on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in the district court in Pennsylvania against US based cleric Fethullah Gulen on Wednesday.
Gulen who has become the chief foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accused of orchestrating human rights abuses against three men in Turkey from his rural Pennsylvania residence.
The lawsuit alleges that Gulen ordered followers among the police and judiciary to plant evidence against the three men and build false criminal cases that led to their imprisonment.
The Turkish government claims that the 74-year-old cleric has been running a parallel state by planting his followers in key positions in state institutions, including the police and judiciary.
|The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement were thought to have good relations when the party first emerged
Friends turned foes
US based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen is the leader of a translational religious movement known as the "Gulen Movement" that operates schools and charities across the world and enjoys millions of followers inside Turkey.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement were thought to have good relations when the party first emerged and observers believe the movement helped Erdogan secure his first term as Prime Minister in 2002.
However, relations turned sour in 2013 when the Turkish judiciary, though to contain Gulen supporters in senior positions, launched an extensive corruption investigation into Erdogan's inner circle.
Those detained as part of the investigation included sons of three ministers in Erdogan's cabinet, to which Erdogan reacted furiously, calling it a "dirty operation" to smear his government.
Rattled by what he perceived as a challenge to his authority, the Prime Minister launched a wide scale campaign to purge state institutions of Gulen followers, whom he accuse of attempting to create a "state within a state".
Turkish authorities have since jailed journalists linked to Gulen, and are looking at other ways to limit the influence of the movement.
In November, the Turkish police stormed the Istanbul offices of Zaman newspaper, which is viewed as being allied to the Gulen movement.
Gulen has also been charged of "terrorism" and accused of attempting to topple the government.
The cleric has denied the charges against him and has accused the Turkey's leaders of taking the country down a path towards totalitarianism.