Turkish gov’t detains at least 59 military officers over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained at least 59 military officers across Turkey on Tuesday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The Kayseri Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 41 active duty and former military personnel as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported.

According to the report, at least 22 of the 41 officers, including 31 on active duty, were detained in police operations in 16 provinces on Tuesday.

Separately, 35 military officers, including 33 active duty officers, were detained in 20 provinces in a Şırnak-based investigation on Tuesday over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Two lieutenant colonels, a captain, two lieutenants, 28 noncommissioned officers and a retired sergeant were among the detainees.

Moreover, the administrator of a Turkish military university established by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to aid in the Islamization of the armed forces after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was also arrested over his alleged links to the putsch, according to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily on Tuesday.

Authorities formally arrested Col. Kadir Atakan of the National Defense University after detaining him some two weeks earlier, the newspaper said. He was the director in charge of organizational matters at the school, which is not yet fully operational, the paper said.

Erdoğan had ordered the establishment of the university after the coup attempt to replace the previous military academies, which were closed by a government decree under an ongoing state of emergency.

Meanwhile, a Turkish judge in Ordu province identified as S.G., who was earlier removed from her post over alleged links to the Gülen movement, was put in pretrial detention on terror charges in Eskişehir on Monday.

Detained last week along with her husband, a former police chief, who was also dismissed from his job, S.G. was jailed on charges of establishing and leading a “terrorist group.” The couple has long been hiding in various cities, trying to avoid outstanding arrest warrants.

Also a Chinese student and a Bosnian student were detained on Monday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement following detention warrants issued by the chief public prosecutor’s office in Uşak, a western province.

According to reports in the Turkish media, the prosecutors have been investigating 14 foreign students from various countries over their alleged links to the Gülen movement and their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, military officers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt in July 2016.

Also on Tuesday, a Turkish court in Siirt province handed down life sentences to 11 military officers over their alleged role in the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The group were charged over incidents that took place in the southeastern province of Siirt where the governor’s office was allegedly blockaded during the coup bid. Five military officers were given life sentences, while the remainder were given aggravated life sentences.

Moreover, a court in Turkey’s northwestern province of Bolu sentenced 79 people to jail terms varying from about 2 to 10 years over their alleged links to the Gülen movement on Tuesday.

Separately, in the Black Sea province of Ordu, a court sentenced five people on Tuesday to jail terms varying between about a year-and-a-half to over six years over the similar charges.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip 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 has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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