Dozens detained, arrested over alleged Gülen links in witch hunt campaigns

Twenty-two businessmen and shopkeepers were detained in Bandırma over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Acting under the directives of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has continued its self-declared witch hunt targeting alleged sympathizers of the Gülen movement with dozens of arrests and detentions on Tuesday.

A total of 21 businessmen were taken into custody as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement. Detention warrants were issued for 24 people who are alleged to have ties with Antalya-based business associations that had been earlier closed under post-coup emergency rule. Police carried out operations in İzmir, İstanbul, and several districts of Antalya, detaining 21 so far. Suspects are accused of donating money to the Gülen movement via SEGİAD, an Antalya-based business association.

Also in Bandırma district of Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir, 22 businessmen and shopkeepers were detained over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Detention warrants were issued for 26 people, who reside in Bandırma, early on Tuesday. Hours later, police teams carried out simultaneous operations in the district and detained twenty-two of them.

The detainees are accused of having links to the Gülen movement, using of a smart phone application known as ByLock and attending public meetings organized by the movement followers. Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool between alleged followers of the Gülen movement. 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, 2017.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court has ruled for the arrest of a total of 22 police officers over alleged links to the Gülen movement on Tuesday. 23 police officers were detained on Feb. 16 in simultaneous raids across Çankırı. Of those, 22 were sent to jail on early on Tuesday.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, AKP government along with President Erdogan called the coup “a great gift of God” and pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

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.

About 130,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of Feb. 1, Over 92,550 people were detained, 45,882 people were jailed with pre-trial arrest due to their alleged links to the movement. (The SCF with turkeypurge.com) Feb. 21, 2017

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