Criminal proceedings open against Gulen followers in Azerbaijan

In the immediate aftermath of the failed coup in Turkey on the 15th of July, the Azerbaijani government set about shutting down key, Gulen – linked institutions in Azerbaijan. The first of these victims were Qafqaz University, ANS television channel and Zaman newspaper.

Now, criminal proceedings have been filed in Azerbaijan against followers of the Turkish theologist, Fethullah Gulen.

The press secretary for the Attorney General of Azerbaijan, Eldar Sultanov, told AFP that “a criminal case has been opened against the illegally acting members and supporters of Fethullah Gulen’s terrorist group in order to hinder their activities in Azerbaijan”,

Radio Azadliq reported.

Sultanov did not specify the details of the case, nor did he mention targeted individuals or organizations.

The Turkish and Azerbaijani governments have both announced that Gulen Fethullah is suspected of having organized the July 15th attempted coup.

Gulen, who currently resides in the USA, denies the allegations. The government of the United States has repeatedly turned down Turkey’s request to extradite Gulen.

Television channel ANS was ordered to cease operations because of its intention to broadcast an interview with Gulen. Qafqaz University, closely associated with Gulen’s educational network in Azerbaijan, was also closed and transferred under the auspices of SOCAR.

Gulen’s ‘Hizmet’ schools have opened in several countries of the former Soviet Union. Gulen supporters assert that their aims are the provision of quality education and the propagation of a more just and moderate Islam.

Initially, Gulen and Erdogan – the current president of Turkey – rose to power in the early 2000s, in what seemed to be a coalition of Gulen’s followers and Erdogan’s political connections. However, Gulen soon began to criticize what he saw as Erdogan’s abuse of executive authority, and a rivalry quickly developed between the two.

Their informal alliance was definitively broken when Erdogan accused Gulen of creating a ‘parallel state within a state’, by which he intended the aims of Gulen’s movement to install its own supporters in the lower and mid levels of the judiciary and executive branches of the government.

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