Former deputy governor, 16 teachers arrested over alleged Gülen links

As part of post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement, a former deputy governor and 16 teachers were arrested in the provinces of Ağrı and Malatya on Tuesday.

Ahmet Can Pınar, a former deputy governor and current advisor on legal affairs in Ağrı province, was arrested on Tuesday night for alleged use of a smart phone application named ByLock.

Also, İlhan Toprak, state-run Anadolu news agency’s reporter at the presidential palace was detained over his alleged use of ByLock, on Saturday. According to Turkish media, Toprak was taken under custody immediately after he returned from Pakistan where he accompanied Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his trip to the Asian country, on Saturday.

The government claims that ByLock is an encrypted messaging system among followers of the Gülen movement, which the government holds responsible for plotting a failed coup on July 15, 2016. Tens of thousands of people in Turkey were arrested on charges of downloading this publicly available software although authorities have never produced any content from communications used by suspects that showed any criminal activity.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has submitted a list of names and mobile phone numbers of 122,000 people who use ByLock but jurists believe merely downloading the application does not constitute a crime in itself, cautioning the intelligence data cannot be held up to scrutiny in the court of law unless the evidence is gathered by duly-authorized investigators.

Meanwhile, Malatya police rounded up 16 teachers who were earlier dismissed from their positions as part of the government’s massive witch hunt against the Gülen movement. Turkish government invoked the licences of more than 21.000 teachers who are working for private schools in wake of July 15 coup and dismissed 28,162 other teachers from public schools by issuing the executive decree No.672 on Sept.1, 2016.

Turkish government branded Gülen movement as terrorist group and blamed the failed coup to the movement without presenting any direct evidence. Strongly denying any role in the putsch, Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired peaceful civic group called by his followers as “Hizmet” but popularly known as Gülen movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt. Turkish government has never responded to this offer, instead secured a gag order on media on coup investigation.

In the currently ongoing post-coup purge, over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of March 1, 93,248 people were being held without charge, with an additional 46,274 in pre-trial detention. A total of 7,316 academics were dismissed as 4,070 judges and prosecutors were purged over alleged coup involvement or terrorist links.

March 7, 2017

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