Turkish PM asks: Is Gulen a scholar or a spy chief?

Photo: Turkish PM asks: Is Gulen a scholar or a spy chief? / Turkey

"Are you a scholar, or an intelligence chief?" Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked U.S.-based Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen on Tuesday, Anadolu Agency reported.

Addressing a substantial crowd in his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's local election rally in the northwestern province of Canakkale, Erdogan implied that Gulen controlled a network within the state which spies on people's privacy.

"If you are living like a recluse, then why are you interested in people's phone calls?" Erdogan said, referring to Gulen.

Gulen is accused by the government of masterminding an illegal group nestled within key institutions of the state such as the police and the judiciary.

The group, dubbed the "parallel state", is allegedly behind a number of operations including illegal wiretappings of thousands of people.

The prime minister also mocked the opposition parties for forming tentative alliances to beat the AK Party in the upcoming municipal elections.

He claimed the two main opposition parties, Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP), were suggesting their followers support whichever party is the strongest against the AK Party in local administrations.

Turkey will go to the election polls on March 30 to choose their municipal leaders.

Erdogan earlier said this election was actually a general election in disguise, demanding a stronger support from his followers.

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