9 detained over alleged Gülen links in ByLock investigation

Turkish police detained nine people in recent raids in İzmir over suspected links to the faith-based Gülen movement based on their alleged use of a messaging app, the TR724 news website reported on Thursday.

İzmir prosecutors issued detention warrants for 13 individuals on accusations of affiliation with the movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, based on interactions on the ByLock messaging app.

Among those were military officers and teachers who were summarily dismissed by executive decrees in the aftermath of a July 2016 coup attempt.

The detentions came despite a landmark European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment delivered last year which made clear that the use of the ByLock messaging app does not constitute a criminal offense.

The Turkish authorities, however, continued to detain and prosecute people for using the application, which was available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, since the corruption investigations in 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 in July 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the failed coup, 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. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 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.

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