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Turkish opposition mayor among nearly 200 arrested over alleged Gulen links

Burak Oguz is first CHP mayor to be arrested since March elections over alleged ties to 2016 failed coup
The CHP rejected accusations that mayor Burak Oguz, pictured, belonged to any Gulen network (Twitter)

A mayor from Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is one of nearly 200 people to have been arrested over alleged links to the network that Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup in 2016, a party official said early on Tuesday.

Burak Oguz, the mayor of Urla district in the Aegean coastal province of Izmir, is the first local authority mayor from the CHP to be arrested since elections in March.

Police on Tuesday detained 181 people alleged to have ties to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric that Turkey says ordered the failed coup.

The arrests came after the capital's public prosecutor issued arrest warrants for 260 people accused of using the encrypted ByLock messaging application, which authorities believe was used to coordinate the coup bid.

Another 18 suspects, including 10 doctors, were sought in a second probe.

Officers have so far detained 171 people in Ankara and another 10 suspects elsewhere, the office said without giving details.

CHP condemns arrest

Ankara has since March removed 28 co-mayors from the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) due to alleged links to Kurdish militants. 

Twenty-two co-mayors have been arrested since August and 19 remain in pre-trial detention, according to the HDP, AFP news agency reported.

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Deniz Yucel, head of the CHP's Izmir provincial group, said on Twitter that Oguz had been arrested and rejected the accusation that the mayor belonged to any Gulen network.

"There is no chance for FETO to survive within the CHP," he said, using a derogatory acronym to refer to Gulen and his associates. 

"The party condemns the judiciary removing from office those who were elected," he said.

The Urla municipality did not immediately comment, the Reuters news agency reported.

Criticism from rights groups

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania in the United States since 1999, has denied any involvement in the attempted coup.

In the three years since the event, Turkey has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial and sacked or suspended about 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others from their jobs.

Turkey's Western allies and rights groups have criticised the scale of the crackdown, saying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent.

Ankara has defended the measures as a necessary response to the scale of the security threat Turkey faces, vowing to eradicate Gulen's network.