Detention warrants issued for 35 military members over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Mersin Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for 35 soldiers of various ranks as part of a witch-hunt targeting people claimed to have links to the Gülen movement, the Hürriyet daily reported on Thursday.

According to the report, detention warrants have been issued for 35 military officers including six lieutenants and 25 sergeants in 16 provinces across Turkey.

One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of the widespread purge following the failed coup attempt in July of last year.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In February then-Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the TSK.

A month later Işık declared that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.

The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government plans to investigate 90,000 more military personnel over links to the Gülen movement.

“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 22,920 military personnel were dismissed for their connections to the movement as Erdoğan and the government assert, why did only 8,651 military members participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.

Regulations that task retired officers and noncommissioned officers with recruiting cadets and military personnel went into effect in January amid debates that it was a gift to SADAT A.S. International Defense Consulting, which has also been called President Erdoğan’s “secret army.”

SADAT was directed by retired Brig. Gen. Adnan Tanrıverdi, who was appointed as an adviser to President Erdoğan. Tanrıverdi is known for his Islamist ideology and has counseled Erdoğan for years although in an unofficial capacity, columnist Abdullah Bozkurt wrote for Turkish Minute on Nov. 25.

In June, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, in İzmir province promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies.

Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.

In February, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

Also on Thursday, detention warrants have been issued for 64 people in Kayseri and Adıyaman provinces on accusations that they use a smart phone application known as ByLock. It was reported that warrants were issued for 24 people in Kayseri, and 13 of them were detained as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement. Police detained 32 of 40 people during operations in Adıyaman, Ankara, Kahramanmaraş, Şanlıurfa, Hatay, Gaziantep and Nevşehir on Thursday, in an Adıyaman-based investigation into the Gülen movement. On Wednesday, police detained 16 of 32 people in Samsun province, part of a probe of the movement.

Turkish authorities believe using ByLock is a sign of being a Gülen movement member as they see the mobile phone application as the top communication tool among the group. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

An Erzurum court on Thursday has also sentenced a relative of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, identified only as O.G., to six years, three months in prison on charges of membership in “a terrorist organization.” O.G., a teacher who was earlier dismissed from his job over alleged links to the Gülen movement, pleaded not guilty and demanded an acquittal. The court instead ruled for conviction.

Among the evidence for the decision were O.G.’s account at the now-closed Bank Asya, his former membership in the Aktif Eğitim Sen educators union and his alleged use of ByLock, a smart phone application that Turkish authorities believe Gülen followers used to use for communication. Both Bank Asya and Aktif Eğitim Sen were closed down over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Many of Fethullah Gülen’s relatives have been sent to prison.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch AKP government along with Turkey’s autocratic President 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.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. (SCF with

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