54 active duty and former officers face detention warrants over Gülen links

Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 54 former and active duty officers over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016, Turkish Minute reported.

The detention warrants were issued by the Balıkesir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, and simultaneous raids were being conducted on Monday morning across 38 provinces to detain the suspects as part of the investigation.

Among the 54 being sought are 16 officers who were discharged in the aftermath of the coup attempt, 36 active duty and two retired officers. The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement via payphones to avoid detection.

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. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.

The authorities do not have the actual content of the phone calls in question and they do not know if there actually was a phone conversation or if the call was unanswered. According to human rights lawyers, under normal circumstances such call records cannot be considered legal evidence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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 Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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. Over 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors as well as 20,610 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.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November a total of 292,000 people 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 were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

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