A battle between the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, and the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen intensified today, with police arrests, a government move against the Islamic lender Bank Asya and a reported purge of the domestic intelligence agency.
Mr Erdogan accused supporters of the US-based Mr Gulen of a “vile betrayal” of Turkey, as he campaigned for a presidential election on Sunday which opinion polls forecast he will win.
“There are threats, blackmail, plots, money extorted from businessmen,” he said in a speech to businessmen, calling for their support in fighting Mr Gulen’s movement, which he accuses of seeking to overthrow him. “Yesterday, they stabbed us in the back. Tomorrow, they will stab their current colleagues in the back if they get the chance,” he said. “I call on those who are still silent in the face of this vile betrayal to reconsider their positions.”
Mr Gulen’s supporters in the judiciary and police are believed to have helped Mr Erdogan to neuter rivals in the military and secular establishment through a series of court cases. But Mr Erdogan’s alliance with Hizmet crumbled due to rows on policy and government moves to rein in Mr Gulen. In December, a corruption inquiry targeting Mr Erdogan became public, leading to the resignation of three cabinet ministers.