July 29, 2016 / 1:06 PM / a year ago

Turkish cleric supporters in Netherlands report assaults, death threats

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Supporters of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen living in the Netherlands fear for their safety after dozens of death threats in the wake of a failed coup attempt, a spokeswoman for the community said on Friday.

U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen is shown in still image taken from video, as he speaks to journalists at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Greg Savoy/Reuters TV/File Photo

Dutch police declined to comment.

Turkey says Gulen was the mastermind behind the failed July 15-16 putsch against the government of President Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen denies any involvement and accused Erdogan on Friday of being “poisoned” by power..

Saniye Calkin, who heads the Netherlands-based Hizmet organization of Gulen supporters, said members were keeping out of sight after dozens of reports of death threats, arson, vandalism, and physical assaults in Dutch towns and cities.

“They have unleashed a witch-hunt that is causing a lot of tension between Dutch Turks,” Calkin told journalists in The Hague. “These are signs of Erdogan’s interference in the Netherlands and it is threatening my freedom and safety.”

She said dozens of incidents had been reported to police, and that similar incidents had occurred in neighboring Germany, which has Europe’s largest Turkish community.

Several thousand Gulen supporters, who run charities, schools and cultural organizations, are among up to 500,000 Turks living in the Netherlands.

Tensions among Dutch Turks, who came to the Netherlands as migrant workers in the 1960s and 1970s, escalated earlier this year when a hotline was opened by the Turkish Embassy to report insults to Erdogan.

Turkish authorities have detained, suspended or placed under investigation tens of thousands of teachers, police, journalists and other people since the July 15-16 putsch over suspected links to Gulen.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; editing by Mark Heinrich

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