56 face detention over alleged Gülen links in separate investigations

Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 56 people due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Bold Medya news website reported.

As part of an investigation launched on Tuesday by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants have been issued for 40 teachers. Turkish police have detained 35 of the suspects in operations across the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by 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. 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.

The public prosecutor’s office in Ankara issued detention warrants the same day for 16 individuals on accusations that they used the ByLock messaging app, once widely available online and considered by the government to be a tool of secret communication among supporters of the movement.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has repeatedly stated that arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to the Education and Science Workers Union (Eğitim Sen), a total of 67,609 educators, including teachers and university professors, have been dismissed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” since the coup attempt. An additional 20,000 teachers lost their jobs after the private schools they worked for were shut down by emergency decree-laws due to similar allegations.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in February that 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 movement.

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