0740 GMT March 19, 2019
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, the suspects, who were detained in Kosovo in a joint operation with Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) and Kosovo’s intelligence services, were brought back to the Anatolian country on a private plane on Thursday.
In mid-July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had seized control of the country and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.
Ankara has since accused Gulen, 76, of having orchestrated the failed coup. The opposition figure is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to topple the government via infiltrating the country’s institutions, particularly the army, police and the judiciary.
The US-based cleric has since strongly rejected any involvement in the coup attempt against Erdogan. However, Ankara labeled his transnational religious and social movement as the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Anadolu further said the suspects were allegedly in charge of the FETO-run private Gulistan and Mehmet Akif school networks in Kosovo, adding that these men were said to be in charge of moving FETO members out of Turkey to Europe and the US.
In a statement released earlier in the day, Kosovo’s Interior Ministry said the residence permits of the detainees had been revoked, without providing any reasons. According to Kosovo’s law, the Interior Ministry can revoke the residence permits of individuals over security, criminal, health, public moral or human rights threats.
Gulen has already called on Ankara to end its “witch hunt” of his followers, a move he says is aimed at “weeding out anyone it deems disloyal to President Erdogan and his regime.”
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.