133 face detention over alleged Gülen links in ‘payphone investigation’

Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 133 people including active duty and former military officers as well as former military cadets due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement based on payphone call records, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Demirören news agency reported.

Police raids were being conducted at dozens of locations across 31 provinces on Tuesday to detain the suspects as part of an investigation launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in western Turkey.

The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Among those facing detention as part of the İzmir-based operation, 31 are active duty officers and three are former military officers while 65 are former military cadets who were expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

In another investigation based in Ankara, detention warrants were issued for 34 people, 20 of whom are active duty officers, over alleged Gülen links. Thirty of the suspects were detained in dawn raids across 19 provinces on Tuesday.

The accusations against the suspects include secretly communicating with their contacts within the movement via payphones. The detention warrants were issued based on lists drafted by the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detailing people who used payphones.

The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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