40 people in Rize, PM advisor detained by Turkish police over alleged ties with Gülen movement

Turkish police detained 40 people as part of its post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in northeastern Rize province of Turkey on Saturday.

It was reported that 40 people, who were identified as private sector workers, shopkeepers and public servants, were detained allegedly for using ByLock which is a controversial mobile phone application that Turkish authorities claim to be the top communication tool among the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Birol Erdem

Also on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s chief advisor Birol Erdem was detained over his alleged links to the Gülen movement. Birol Erdem, who was a justice ministry undersecretary previously, and his wife Gülümser Erdem were detained early Saturday in Ankara as part of an investigation carried out by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

It was reported that Birol Erdem testified as witness as part of an investigation launched in the framework of post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement last year.

Erdem had previously worked as an administrative procedures judge and became a justice ministry undersecretary in 2011. He was dismissed after Dec. 17-25 Operation in 2013, and became an adviser to the prime minister on Jan. 2014.

Moreover, 17 public servants were detained by police in Isparta province as part of an investigation launched in the framework of post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement. It was reported that Isparta police continue its efforts to detain more people in the same framework.

A military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 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.

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 report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt. Law enforcement have  also caught hundreds of people attempting to illegally leave Turkey to neighboring countries so far. Not satisfied with dismissals, Turkish government cancelled passports of thousands of people while putting travel ban on many others.

June 3, 2017

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