Turkish authorities on Thursday issued arrest warrants for two judges in a legal standoff over an order to release 75 suspects detained on suspicion of plotting to overthrow Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.
The judges at the weekend issued an order to release the 74 former police and the head of the Samanyolu TV channel Hidayet Karaca from police custody.
All are accused of being allies of Erdogan’s arch foe, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, and working with him in a parallel state aimed at overthrowing the government.
Their decision had been blocked by a higher court and the judges themselves were then suspended by Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).
An Istanbul court issued arrests warrants for judges Metin Ozcelik and Mustafa Baser on suspicion of membership in an illegal organisation, the official Anatolia news agency said.
Ozcelik has already been arrested while Baser is currently being searched for, the Hurriyet daily and NTV television channel reported.
Gulen leads a broad movement known as “Hizmet” (Service), believed to be supported by millions of Turks and which brings together interests ranging from finance to schools to media.
The cleric, 74, was once a close ally of Erdogan. But the authorities blamed Gulen for corruption allegations that rocked Erdogan’s government in December 2013 while he was prime minister.
Gulen, who left for the US in 1999 to escape charges of anti-secular activities by the government at the time, has denied being behind the graft allegations against Erdogan.
The 75 suspects were never released and remain in detention.
They had all been detained in a series of raids that started last year against supporters of Gulen in the Turkish security forces.
Karaca leads a strongly pro-Gulen television channel and his arrest had been condemned by media rights groups.