Detention warrants issued for 38 TRT employees over alleged Gülen links

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for 38 people working for the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) on the grounds that they have links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, Emre İper, who works as a finance manager at the Cumhuriyet daily, has been detained over use of a smart phone application known as ByLock. İper was detained in the early hours of Friday following a police raid on his house.

ByLock is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

The Cumhuriyet daily has been the target of a government-led crackdown on critical media outlets in the country recently as 10 journalists and executives from the daily, including its Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace in November.

As of April 1, 2017, Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Stockholm-based monitoring and rights advocacy group, has confirmed that 228 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a new world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 196 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. 13 jailed journalists have been re-detained just after they were released by an İstanbul court on March 31, 2017. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for 92 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey.

Moreover, at least 28 individuals were detained as part of two separate investigations into the Gülen movement on Thursday. Detention warrants were issued for 21 people in a Niğde-based probe. While 14 of them have been rounded up in Niğde and Ankara so far, the detainees included university students, academics, small business owners and corporate executives. They are also accused of having used ByLock, a smartphone app that Turkish prosecutors claim to be top communication tool among the movement supporters.

Meanwhile, 14 others were detained in a separate investigation in İzmir’s Seferihisar district the same day.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 which 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 despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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 statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (SCF with & April 7, 2017

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