TURKEY

Hundreds arrested in one of the biggest raids against FETÖ

Police officers in the city of Adana escort a suspect who was detained in an operation against FETÖ's police exam fraud, Feb. 12, 2019.

More than 640 people were arrested yesterday in one of the largest sweeps against the FETÖ terrorist group. A manhunt is underway to capture hundreds more in an investigation into the group's infiltration of law enforcement

Police arrested at least 641 suspects Tuesday, one day after Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that they were preparing for "a big operation" against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

The suspects captured in 76 provinces of Turkey were among the 1,112 people sought by the Chief Prosecutor's Office. The probe focuses on mass cheating in a police exam in 2010. Media reports claimed that an acting police chief of a central Turkish town was also among those arrested. The exam allows policemen to be promoted to the rank of deputy inspector, the first step for promotion in a law enforcement career for many.

FETÖ, the culprit behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people, is implicated in a string of cheating allegations in public exams. The group is accused of using the exams as a stepping stone to the public sector, where many of its members found jobs. Several members of the terrorist group were already convicted of mass cheating on a nationwide exam for civil servants.

Multiple investigations into the group's methods for cheating found that FETÖ leaked questions and answers to young members, either handpicked by the group's leaders or eager to join the public sector. Former members of the group had testified in other cases that "brothers" or "imams," point men and handlers for FETÖ, provided them questions and answers to exams. Civilians are believed to have gained access to well-protected questions and answers through infiltrators in bodies tasked with organizing the exams.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office has launched investigations against the police exam cheating after the 2016 coup attempt. It had already issued arrest warrants for dozens of suspects, but yesterday's operations were among the biggest against FETÖ to date.

A total of 1,112 suspects were identified when all of them gave the same answers to the same 13 questions whose answers were actually misprinted, demonstrating that they had memorized the questions and answers beforehand. Their names also matched a database of Gülenist police officers found in possession of a former FETÖ member who confessed his ties to the terrorist group. The database contains names and information on police officers who were planted in law enforcement by the terrorist group.

FETÖ, which used its infiltrators in the military to stage the 2016 coup attempt, is known for its mass infiltration of the judiciary, law enforcement, military and bureaucracy.

The Public Personnel Selection Exam (KPSS) in 2010 was canceled years later after it was found that FETÖ had supplied the questions to hundreds of its followers. Civil servants who passed the exam have faced investigations.

In 2017, security forces detained 10 suspects for fraud in the entrance examination for a prestigious Police Academy in 2009.

The terrorist group faced more scrutiny after the coup attempt, which was its first attempt at using its adherents in the military to seize power, just three years after it had tried its hand at a coup through its infiltrators in the judiciary and law enforcement.

More than 100,000 people have been arrested or detained since the failed coup, with a similar number having been dismissed from their public sector jobs for links to the terrorist group.

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