Turkey issues arrest warrant for ex soccer star

Ankara: Turkish authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of former soccer star and legislator Hakan Sukur over his links to a US-based Muslim cleric,  accused by Turkey of masterminding last month’s failed coup, media reports said today.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister told reporters that 32 Turkish diplomats who were called back to Turkey as part of an investigation into the coup  attempt had failed to return.

Turkey has launched a massive crackdown on alleged supporters of the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt that  left more than 270 people dead, raising concerns among European nations and human rights groups.

More than 35,000 people have been detained for questioning while tens of thousands of others from government jobs, including in the judiciary, media,  education, health care, military and local government. Gulen, who runs a network of worldwide charities and schools from self-imposed exile in  Pennsylvania, has denied any knowledge or involvement in the coup.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said an arrest warrant was issued for Sukur yesterday, accusing him of “membership in an armed terror organization.”

Prosecutors had also demanded the arrest of Sukur’s father, the report said. A court has also ordered that both men’s assets in Turkey be seized, Anadolu  said.

Sukur, who reportedly left Turkey last year, played for Inter Milan and Galatasaray and was Turkey’s top goal-scorer in international competition.

He has  made no secret of his affiliation to Gulen, and resigned from the ruling party in 2013 following a government rift with the movement.

During a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that of the 208 diplomatic personnel serving in foreign  posts recalled following the coup, 32 had not complied and had fled to other countries.

Cavusoglu added that the ministry was in touch with the countries to which they had fled, seeking to secure their return. Turkey has branded Gulen’s movement a terror organization and wants the cleric returned to Turkey to face trial. Washington has said it would need evidence of the cleric’s involvement,  and says the regular extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

During today’s press conference, Cavusoglu said that a delegation from the US Department of Justice would be arriving on August 22 and meet with their  Turkish counterparts on the following two days to discuss the extradition request.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said the US delegation would include three Justice Department experts and one from the State Department. (AP)

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