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Azerbaijan Launches Criminal Probe Into Gulen's Followers

Azerbaijan said it has launched a criminal investigation into supporters of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for last month's aborted coup.

"To prevent illegal actions on the territory of Azerbaijan by the supporters of the terrorist organization of Fethullah Gulen, the prosecutor-general has launched a criminal case," spokesman Eldar Sultanov told AFP.

He said investigators have begun "actions" on the case, without elaborating. It is unclear how many people might be prosecuted.

Gulen, who is living in exile in the United States, is accused of ordering the July 15 attempt by a group within the military to remove Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power. Gulen strongly denies the accusation.

Azerbaijan last month shut down a private television channel over plans to broadcast an interview with Gulen, saying it wanted to "avoid provocations aimed at damaging the strategic partnership between Turkey and Azerbaijan."

Gulen's Hizmet movement has sponsored schools in several ex-Soviet nations, which are funded by Turkish followers of the cleric.

Gulen's associates say they seek to promote moderate Islam and good education.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS