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Turkish embassy targets 'Gulen-linked' Cambodia schools

Cambodia: A Turkish official in Cambodia Wednesday called for the closure of schools it says are linked to the cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed bitter foe Fethullah Gulen for last week's bloody failed putsch and has vowed to root out his network of alleged supporters.

His government has so far arrested more than 9,000 people and suspended 15,200 state education employees in Turkey over alleged links to the Islamic preacher, while demanding Gulen's extradition from the United States.

Gulen, who denies involvement in the attempted power grab, is the spiritual leader of the Hizmet movement which operates schools around the world and is also linked to media organisations, businesses and think-tanks.

 Turkish embassy targets Gulen-linked Cambodia schools

File image of Fethullah Gülen. Reuters

"We know that Fethullah Gulen is behind the coup attempt and we know Zaman schools are affiliated with this person," an official from the Turkish embassy in Cambodia told AFP Wednesday, referring to the Zaman International School in Phnom Penh.

"That's why our government expects these schools to be closed," he said, requesting anonymity.

In a video posted on the embassy's Facebook page on Monday, Turkish ambassador Ilhan Kemal Tug labelled Gulen's movement a "terrorist organisation".

"We have been in close contact with the Cambodian government... regarding the Zaman schools in Cambodia, and we have requested all kinds of support to be halted," the ambassador said.

The director of the schools, which serve more than 2,000 students in Cambodia from kindergarten to university level, denied formal ties with the preacher.

"The founders of Zaman International School started with the spiritual motivation of Mr Fethullah Gulen; however, Mr Gulen has never had any official link, ownership or involvement in the school administration," Ejder Kilic, chairman of Zaman Co Ltd, said in a statement emailed to AFP.

Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP it has not received a formal request to shut down the schools.

The schools were founded in 1997 by a former journalist with the newspaper Zaman, an outlet seen as aligned with Gulen until its takeover in March by the Turkish government.

Gulen, 75, has lived in the US since 1999.

On Tuesday he urged Washington to reject Turkey's efforts to extradite him, calling the accusations he was behind the coup "ridiculous".

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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2016 17:12:36 IST