Turkish police teams on Wednesday detained 23 employees of Koza-İpek Holding, including journalists Hasan Bozkurt and Metin Arslan who worked for the media outlets of İpek Media Group, which were taken over by the government in 2016 as part of an ongoing government-led crackdown on followers of the faith-based Gülen movement.
The state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) seized Koza-İpek Holding in September 2016 over its alleged links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15.
Akın İpek, the former CEO of the conglomerate, said 18 of the group’s confiscated companies alone were worth over $10 billion.
Ten out of the 23 employees are users of a smart phone application known as ByLock, according to Turkish media reports.
Also, on Wednesday, 93 police chiefs who were dismissed from their jobs following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 have been detained, Cumhuriyet daily reported. According to the report, 93 former police chiefs have been detained in 16 provinces
across Turkey as part of an İstanbul-based investigation that includes 137 police officers for allegedly using ByLock.
Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) on May 9 downgraded the status of Antalya Regional Court of Justice judge Şenol Demir and transferred him to Konya province after he refused to accept the use of ByLock as evidence of a crime.
Demir recently reversed a judgment by a Denizli court that sentenced Hacer Aydın, a Gülen movement follower, to six years, three months in prison over the use of ByLock. In his judgment Demir said that “ByLock alone, contrary to what is suggested by MİT [the National Intelligence Organization], cannot be evidence of a crime.”
Turkish authorities claim that ByLock is the top communication tool among members of the faith-based Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15. Critics, however, have lambasted the government for detaining thousands simply for using a mobile application.
A letter sent by Turkey’s Security Directorate General to all police units in the country last October told police officers to obtain confessions from individuals who had been detained due to their use of ByLock because mere use of the application is not considered a crime.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have either been dismissed or arrested for using the application. Critics say the use of a technological application is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
According to reports in the Turkish media, Turkey’s Security Directorate General and MİT have an IP address list of the people who downloaded ByLock, but they are not in possession of the content of the conversations held using the application.
Judicial experts suggest that a person cannot be accused for using a certain means of communication, adding that they can be accused only if there is an element of crime in their messages. They also say that a court order is required to conduct technical surveillance and to be able to present the findings in court as evidence.
Technical surveillance data collected without a court order is not considered legal evidence by Turkish courts.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt. Turkish authorities believe ByLock is the top communication tool among the followers of the Gülen movement.
The military coup attempt killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
According to a statement from Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 17, 2017