286 detained over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish authorities have detained of a total of 286 suspects in a week, part of a relentless witch-hunt against the Gülen movement, according to reports by Turkish media.

On February 24, 148 people, 103 of whom are active duty officers and 14 former military cadets, were taken into custody in 47 provinces based on detention warrants issued by the İzmir Public Prosecutor’s Office in an operation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

The second detentions on Wednesday were part of an investigation conducted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Thirteen military officers were detained following raids in 10 provinces. They are accused of communicating via pay phone, a method that Turkish prosecutors believe is a means of communicating with the movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

On February 25, Turkish police detained 31 people following raids as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which issued detention warrants for 37 people including three police officers over alleged Gülen links. Three people were also detained in northwestern Turkey while trying to flee to Greece, according to Turkish media reports on Thursday.

On February 24, 73 people were taken into custody based on detention warrants issued by the public prosecutor’s offices in the southern provinces of Adana and Gaziantep over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile application. ByLock is an encrypted messaging app used on smartphones and was available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Turkish media also reported that the Edirne Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants on Monday for 20 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.

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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