Turkey arrested 1,595 people in a year over Gülen links: minister

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced at a press briefing on Thursday that since June 2023, Turkish authorities have carried out a total of 5,543 police operations and arrested 1,595 people as part of the government’s ongoing crackdown on the faith-based Gülen movement.

Speaking to reporters at the “Ankara 365 Media Meetings,” Yerlikaya emphasized the scale of the operations against the movement.

The Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 and is labeled as a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

This week’s arrests and detentions underscored the ongoing crackdown.

On Tuesday arrest warrants were issued by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for eight people allegedly linked to the movement. Five of these suspects have been detained, with police actively pursuing the remaining individuals. The suspects are accused of operating in significant roles within the organization, including “regional student coordinators” and “military personnel handlers.”

Additional operations on the same day in Malatya resulted in the detention of four women allegedly active within the movement, with law enforcement seizing a trove of documents and digital materials.

Detention warrants for eight people were issued on Thursday by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The police detained six of the suspects, who were accused of being affiliated with the movement and allegedly using the ByLock messaging app.

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations in 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

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

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!