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Turkish-Mexican national arrested in Cambodia amid alleged Gulen links

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Cambodian police have arrested the Turkish-Mexican former director of a school run by the movement of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup, his wife said on Friday.

 

Osman Karaca, former director of Zaman International School, was arrested by eight policemen while he was at a bank on Oct. 14 in the capital Phnom Penh, said his wife Grace Karaca, who fears he will be deported to Turkey.

 

“That’s the last we have heard of him,” Karaca told Reuters on Friday from Mexico, where she is living with her son.

The Mexican Embassy in Vietnam - it does not have one in Cambodia - confirmed the arrest in a letter and asked Cambodia’s Interior Ministry to provide information and let him communicate with a consul.

 

Cambodia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment. Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun declined to comment. Turkey’s Embassy in Phnom Penh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Erdogan blames Gulen for the coup attempt and has demanded the extradition of various people tied to Gulen’s movement - including staff at schools it funded worldwide. Gulen denies any connection with the abortive putsch.

 

At its peak, the Gulen movement operated schools in 160 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States. Since the coup attempt, Turkey has pressured allies to shut down Gulen-run establishments.

 

In Turkey’s three-year purge since the coup attempt, more than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and about 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs.

 

Ankara has defended the clampdown as a necessary response to the scale of the security threat which Turkey faces, vowing to eradicate Gulen’s network.

 

Karaca, who was born in Turkey and holds a Mexican passport, was director of Zaman school from 2002 to 2011, his wife said. The school was sold last year.

 

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific, urged the Cambodian authorities to either bring Karaca promptly before a judge or release him immediately.

 

(The story corrects years when Osman Karaca worked as the director of Zaman school in paragraph 10)

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Alison Williams

 

-- REUTERS

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