Turkey's President Erdogan removes 492 religious staff as he imposes conservative Islam
Turkey's President Erdogan has fired 492 religious officials on suspected "terrorism" charges after an attempted military coup failed on July 16.
The move was part of a wider purge of those deemed to be opposed to the conservative Islamic leader. More than 50,000 people in total have been rounded up, sacked, or arrested in the wake of the coup.
Turkey's government has blamed US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for directing the uprising. Gulen, who is said to have supporters in Turkey's civil service, police and judiciary, has strongly denied the accusations.
Erodgan is pressing the US to extradite Gulen and a government spokesman said the White House ought to extradite the cleric "on grounds of suspicion" and not require the facts of the case against him.
"There is very strong suspicion for his [Gulen's] involvement in this coup attempt. So this is sufficient grounds," said spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.
Gulen, whose school of Islam seeks to amalgamate Muslim teaching with liberal democracy, said the claims were "ridiculous". In a statement he said: "I urge the US government to reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas."
The Religious Affairs Directorate, from which the 492 officials were removed, has a duty in Turkey "to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places".
Often referred to as the Diyanet, it has been seen as on the liberal end of Islam and has allowed women preachers, in vitro fertilization and birth control pills.
But Erdogan is seen as wanting to impose a more conservative Islam. His AK party has roots in political Islam and has sought to criminalize adultery.
As well as religious officials in the Diyanet, Erdogan has arrested more than 6,000 military personal, sacked nearly 9,000 police officers and suspended about 3,000 judges.
On top of this 15,200 teachers and other education staff have been sacked, 1,577 university deans ordered to resign, 8,777 interior ministry officials dismissed, 1,500 finance officials fired and 257 from the prime minister's office sacked.