Man faces investigation for attending funerals of Gülen followers

Burhan Bölükbaşı, the chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Denizli province

A Turkish prosecutor in western Turkey has launched an investigation into a man who attended the funerals of two men who had been accused of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, according to a former public prosecutor.

Burhan Bölükbaşı, the chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Denizli province, launched the investigation into the man, whose name was not revealed, for attending the funerals of Gültekin Payat and Bülent Boya, who had alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Former prosecutor Dr. Hasan Dursun, who was fired from his job in a post-coup purge of civil servants, revealed the judicial documents regarding the investigation on his Twitter account.

Payat, a 41-year-old teacher with an outstanding arrest warrant issued as part of a post-coup witch-hunt targeting the movement, died after allegedly falling 10 meters from a balcony in May 2017 as he was attempting to escape from police officers looking for him.

Boya, 51, died in July in an occupational accident in Denizli.

Dursun did not reveal any other details about the man facing the investigation.

“It has been determined that you visited the grave of a person named Gültekin Payat, who died on 02.05.2017 and was a member of the Gülen movement, and that you attended the funeral of a person named Bülent Boya, who died as a result of an accident at work and who is also accused of membership in the movement,” the prosecutor says in the document.

”Although visits to cemeteries and funeral ceremonies would appear to be normal, what was your purpose in commemorating these people who are members of a terrorist organization at their graves? Please explain,” the prosecutor said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Turkish courts have arrested 219 people who were among the more than 650 people detained in a massive operation last week targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement over donations to and from the group’s members.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Victims of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown say they and their families experience severe financial and psychological problems due to what they call hate speech employed by the government and its supporters against them, which prevents them from leading normal lives, finding jobs and supporting their families.

According to a statement from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in July, 117,208 people have been convicted, with 1,366 sentenced to life in prison and 1,634 to aggravated life with no chance of parole following the coup attempt. While 87,519 people have been acquitted of charges specifically related to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to Bozdağ, there are doubts about the number of people who have been acquitted of all charges by a court of law.

Judicial experts voice skepticism about the figures announced by the minister, saying that 117,208 convictions are only those that have been upheld by an appeals court, since Justice Ministry data show that more than 265,000 people were sentenced on charges of terrorist organization membership between 2016 and 2020 due to their alleged Gülen links.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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