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Erdogan Moves to Shut Schools in Blow to Gulen Followers

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government submitted a bill to parliament to shut down about 4,000 prep schools, about a quarter of them linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan’s allies described a December investigation into corruption as an attack orchestrated by Gulen because of government plans to shut down prep schools. In his year-end address to the nation, Erdogan said that the “December 17 plot was an assassination attempt hidden in a corruption package.” Gulen denies the allegations.

The bill orders the closing of exam preparation schools by Sept. 1, 2015, and offers government jobs to teachers and incentives to owners if they convert their institutions into regular schools that follow the national curriculum. Incentives include free land for 25 years and a government contribution for the students, the bill said. The plan was announced last year, sparking the conflict between Erdogan and the Gulen movement.

“No one will be mistreated,” Education Minister Nabi Avci said today. “There are measures to prevent small prep schools from facing difficulty.”

The issue is important to Gulen’s followers, who teach about 400,000 of the 1.2 million prep-school students. The schools offer additional training to students preparing for exams from elementary schools to universities.

Erdogan has removed thousands of police officers and prosecutors suspected of ties to Gulen’s movement, while pro-government media have targeted companies for alleged links to the cleric.

The government today reassigned more than 100 prosecutors in western city of Izmir, including one who was investigating allegations of bribery and rigging tenders by state rail and port management, Hurriyet newspaper said without saying where it got the information.

To contact the reporter on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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