Turkish businessmen should inform authorities about colleagues and friends they suspect of having sympathies for Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, calling on companies to purge the preacher's supporters.
Speaking to a group of exporters in Ankara, Erdogan said it was the "patriotic duty" of Turkish citizens to aid the government's efforts against Gulen, the president's rival. He vowed to mop up the cleric's supporters in the business world.
Erdogan blames Gulen for the July 15 failed coup attempt. The cleric, who lives in self imposed exile in the United States, rejects the accusations.
Turkey has already suspended or fired more than 60,000 civil servants and 21,000 teachers lost their licences. Erdogan vowed operations against alleged Gulenists would continue, even if 200,000 people were eventually ejected from the state bureaucracy.
More than 16,000 people are under arrest in Turkey in relation to the failed coup, with operations ongoing daily. In the latest raids, police detained 112 businessmen, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, accusing them all of having links to Gulen.
Since 2013 the government has accused Gulen of running a "parallel state" by placing his followers in the state bureaucracy. Gulen, who heads a global Islamic movement that includes businesses, charities and school networks, denies all the charges.
Gulen and Erdogan were once staunch allies, but have since fallen out. Government opponents are critical of Erdogan, saying he allowed Gulenists to infiltration the state. The president himself compares his rival's followers to a viral infestation.
Erdogan also used the speech to lash out at banks, demanding they increase access to cheaper loans, threatening to take action against the financial sector if it refuses to comply.
Finansbank in Turkey noted that "loan growth has been weak since the beginning of the year," and said recent measures by the central bank to stimulate lending will only have a limited effect because the high loans to deposit ratio in Turkey is increasing risk perception.
Turmoil in Turkey - including the coup attempt, terrorist attacks and political crackdowns - have worried investors. There is also concern about eroding checks and balances. S&P downgraded Turkey immediately after the coup to below investment grade.
"Our baseline scenario is that Turkey's sovereign rating will be cut to sub-investment grade this year," Commerzbank said in a research note.
Even prior to the coup attempt, the economy was showing some signs of cooling and there is expectation that recent events will add to this trend. For example, tourism is likely to remain subdued in the near term and inflation rose to 8.8 per cent in July.
By Shabtai Gold
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