An Istanbul court has accepted a request by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to issue an arrest warrant for Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah G�len, who resides in the United States.
The 1st Istanbul Penal Court of Peace decided to issue the arrest warrant, according to a report published by the state-run Anadolu Agency. The move would be a prelude to a formal request for G�len's extradition from the United States, where he is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
Istanbul Public Prosecutor Hasan Yilmaz, who is supervising an investigation that put Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli and dozens of others into jail, issued an arrest warrant for G�len as part of the operation that started on Sunday targeting journalists, scriptwriters, producers and police officials.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused G�len's movement of orchestrating a plot to try to bring it down. It says G�len's followers within the police and judiciary were behind corruption allegations that forced four ministers to resign and targeted members of Erdogan's family. G�len denied all the charges.
The US and Turkey do have an extradition treaty and Erdogan has said previously that he wants G�len extradited.
Earlier Friday, the court ordered the arrest of four people and released eight others who had been detained in the raids on Zaman daily and STV network.
The investigation has been widely condemned as a blow against Turkey's free press, drawing criticism from the European Union and the US. Erdogan has rejected the criticism, saying the investigation is a national security issue. �
"I reject the accusations that I am a member of a terror organization and return the accusations to those who have made them," Dumanli told supporters Friday outside the courthouse in Istanbul. "The media cannot be silenced, the media cannot be intimated. Zaman is not afraid."
The issue of a warrant would take Erdogan's campaign to root out G�len supporters, including purges of the judiciary and police, to the international arena potentially testing already strained relations with Washington.
Turkish authorities are now free to apply to the United States for extradition, with no guarantee of success. Erdogan's image in the West, once that of a moderate reformer, has been eroded as his open intolerance of opposition and of criticism has grown.
The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, has said last weekend's police raids to detain journalists and other media workers was contrary to European values. Erdogan told the bloc to mind its own business.