Turkey’s defense minister has announced that 24,706 personnel from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been expelled over Gülen links since a failed coup in 2016, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the attempted coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s statement came on Tuesday during budget talks in parliament.
Akar did not specify how many of the 24,706 people were military and how many were civil servants working for the TSK, but they were primarily officers of all ranks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
The government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.