Turkey's most powerful religious group, the Fethullah Gulen Movement, has been feted at home and abroad as a model of moderate Islam. These days, however, the group’s reputation appears to be taking a hit in a controversy involving the arrest of a popular senior police officer.
Prosecutors in Istanbul have charged the former police intelligence officer, Hanefi Avci, with aiding and abetting a left-wing terror group. Arrested in Ankara in late September, Avci denies the charges. He also insists that his arrest is the result of a Gulen Movement plot against him. "This is a [Fethullah Gulen] Movement operation," he told the daily Radikal in a telephone interview as he was being taken to Istanbul. His arrest was intended “to camouflage [the Movement's] crimes," he added.
Avci believes the Gulen Movement’s motive is a desire to gain revenge for the publication of a book this August in which he alleged that the movement’s followers had infiltrated state bodies, including the police and the judicial system. The book, titled Simons on the Golden Horn, has been a publishing sensation, selling 600,000 copies in the first month.
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.