U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen locked in a feud with the Turkish government has likened Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's grip on power to that of the once-dominant military, and warned that political and economic reforms of the past decade are under threat Hurriyet Daily News reported.
In a rare written political commentary, Pennsylvania-based preacher Gulen said Erdogan had lost trust at home and abroad because of measures such as curbs on Internet freedom, greater government control of the courts and stronger powers for the intelligence agency.
"A small group within the government's executive branch is holding to ransom the entire country's progress," Gulen , members of whose Hizmet (Service) movement say they number in the millions, wrote in the article published in the Financial Times late on Monday.
"The dominance in politics that was once enjoyed by the military now appears to have been replaced by hegemony of the executive," he said.
Gulen said Hizmet members, who have cast themselves as the victims of a witch hunt by Erdogan's government, had "no interest in the privileges of power", and that seeking power in the name of religion would contradict the spirit of Islam.
"The Turkish state has long discriminated against citizens and public servants on the basis of their views," he wrote.
"A dark shadow has been cast over achievements of the past decade - the result of insidious profiling of certain groups of Turkish citizens for their views, constant shuffling of civil servants for political convenience, and an unprecedented subjugation of the media, the judiciary and civil society."
Gulen said the government could restore trust only by "renewing its commitment to universal human rights, the rule of law and accountable governance" and said a new constitution drafted by civilians should lie at the heart of this.
Erdogan's AKP had ties with the Gulen movement until last year, but Erdogan has been burning bridges since the graft probe broke, saying the Gulenists have been "working against him and his government."
Erdogan has repeatedly accused Gulen of orchestrating the graft probes against the government and of wiretapping thousands of people, including his family and close advisers. He has also accused Gulen of being a tool of foreign powers.