Famous Turkish businessman Hosta sentenced to 10 years in prison over his alleged Gülen links

A Turkish court in Ankara has sentenced the renowned Turkish businessman Verdal Hosta to 10 years in prison on Tuesday over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The hearing at he Ankara 18th High Criminal Court was attended by defendant Verdal Hosta and his lawyers. Hosta stated that he wanted to benefit from the effective remorse regulation however the prosecutor has not accepted his demand.

Stating that the allegations over his financial aids to the Gülen movement have not reflected the truth, Hosta said that he has not engaged in business since 2002 and he did not transfer any money to the movement.

Hosta, who has accepted that he used ByLock for a short while after one of his friends suggested him to use it, has also accepted his visit to Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen in USA together with Turkish businessman Akın İpek. Hosta said that he has not visited a leader of “terror organisation” in the US because at the time of his visit everybody was going to Pennsylvania to visit Fethullah Gülen. He said that he knew the Gülen movement as a religious community and as a movement for educational activities and its promotion of moral values.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Defending that his contacts with those people from the Gülen movement were before 2007, Hosta has emphasised on his innocence and demanded his release from the prison and acquitals from the case. However, the court has decided to sentence him for 10 years in prison and continuation of his imprisonment.

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 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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