An arrest warrant has been issued for U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen in absentia for alleged "conspiracy, forgery of official documents and slander" as part of an ongoing "parallel state" probe in Turkey.
Istanbul's 14th High Penal Court issued the warrant late Friday after the court approved the indictment submitted by the Anti-Terror and Organized Crimes Bureau of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.
The indictment demanded a jail term of up to 34 years for Gulen on charges of "conspiracy, forgery of official documents and slander" as part of a probe over a 2011 complaint filed by Mehmet Nuri Turan, the founder of the Istanbul-based publishing house "Tahsiye", who had claimed that he was targeted by Gulen.
The prosecutor also sought prison sentences of up to 26 years for 32 other suspects each, including Samanyolu Media Group Chairman Hidayet Karaca and several police chiefs on charges of "membership to an armed organization, forgery of official documents and slander".
The court ruled for the arrest of prime suspect Gulen in absentia, on the grounds that he was a "fugitive" and "there are phenomena of virtual criminal suspicion, concrete phenomena suggesting that he might hide" and the "measure of judicial control would be insufficient in face of the classification and nature of the crime".
Judges also wanted a letter to be sent to the Ministry of Justice so that a red notice could be issued by Interpol that could lead to the extradition of the suspect by U.S. judicial authorities.
The case will be tried at Istanbul's Silivri Prison and Correctional Facility, with the first hearings to be held on December 22, 23 and 24.
The prosecutor's office also said that a separate probe was underway against Ekrem Dumanli, columnist and editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper, in relation with the Tahsiye case.
The plaintiff Turan had said that Gulen first allegedly targeted the Tahsiye Publishing House in 2009. In a speech, the preacher had alleged that Tahsiye and its "Tahsiyeciler" group had links with extremist organizations -- including an al-Qaeda-affiliated group -- Hezbollah in Turkey, and the Islamic Great Eastern Raiders Front.
Turan also said that Ali Fuat Yilmazer, a former head of police intelligence department, had also submitted a report in 2009 which alleged that Tahsiyeciler supported extremist groups like al-Qaeda because of which the group was systematically targeted.
The same Tahsiyeciler group was also allegedly defamed as a shadowy organization in the "One Turkey" television series that used to broadcast on the private Turkish television network, Samanyolu.
Samanyolu television chairman was also detained in the parallel state probe for allegedly having ties with the Gulen movement.
The parallel state is a purported clandestine group of Turkish bureaucrats and senior officials embedded in the country's institutions, including the judiciary and police, led by Gulen and his Hizmet (Service) movement, which allegedly is plotting to overthrow the elected government.