ISTANBUL, Turkey, Sep 27 – Turkey has dismissed 87 staff from its spy agency over alleged links to the failed July 15 coup, state media said Tuesday, in the first purge of one of the country’s most powerful institutions.
National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) has suspended 141 personnel in an internal probe over links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara alleges was behind the coup.
Of these, 87 have now been expelled, the Anadolu news agency said. Criminal complaints have been lodged against 52 of them, it added.
In a separate development, Turkish police detained 41 suspects from a charity organisation Kimse Yok Mu? (Is There Anyone There?) for alleged links to Gulen, Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkey has fired tens of thousands of people from state institutions in the wake of the attempted putsch but this was the first announcement of dismissals from the powerful spy agency.
Turkey’s secret service was widely criticised for not warning authorities about the coup bid and the government has acknowledged a vacuum in gathering intelligence.
The 87 staff from the Turkish intelligence will no longer be able to work in another state institution after their dismissal, Anadolu also reported.
Fidan under fire
There had been intense speculation over the future of Turkish spy chief Hakan Fidan after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly said intelligence lapses had helped the coup.
The Turkish strongman had admitted he himself found about the coup not from the intelligence service but from his brother-in-law, and that he had been unable to reach Fidan on the night of the putsch.
Fidan was named to head MIT by the Turkish president in May 2010 after serving as his foreign policy adviser for three years.
Erdogan, who described Fidan as his “secret keeper”, had made no secret of his discontent when the spy chief in February 2015 resigned as head of MIT with the aim of becoming an MP from the president’s ruling party.
But later Fidan withdrew his candidacy and remained at the top of the intelligence service.
In a picture that sparked a frenzy on social media, the previously clean-shaven Fidan was shown in a meeting with the president in the aftermath of the coup in July with a moustache.
Several top ministers, including Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, have grown facial hair in recent months in what is widely seen as a sign of loyalty to the moustachioed head of state.
The MIT is one of Turkey’s most secretive but powerful organisations, handling issues ranging from internal security to the sensitive areas of foreign policy.
Turkish police carried out operations in 18 provinces including in the mega city Istanbul in search of 121 suspects linked to Kimse Yok Mu?, which had been shut down by authorities in the wake of the coup along with other Gulen-linked groups, Anadolu reported.
They detained 41 suspects while 77 were abroad, two arrested as part of unrelated probes, and one was still at large.
The suspects stand accused of several charges including “membership in an armed group” and “financing terror.”
The government several occasions asked US authorities to extradite Gulen to face justice at home.
The preacher, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement in the putsch.