Turkey arrests 219 people over Gülen-linked donations

A total of 219 people who were among the more than 650 people detained in a massive operation last week targeting alleged members of a faith-based group over donations to and from the group’s members have been sent to jail, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Kronos news website reported.

Turkish police detained 678 people out of 704 named in detention warrants as part of an investigation into the financial activities of followers of the Gülen movement. The detentions began last Wednesday after the operation was announced by the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu.

The suspects are accused of either receiving financial assistance or distributing financial assistance sent by Gülen followers abroad to the families of people jailed over links to the Gülen movement or removed from the civil service for the same reason.

The Turkish government has been cracking down on the real and assumed followers of the Gülen movement for more than six years. The government’s crackdown on the movement intensified following a coup attempt in 2016 because it accuses the movement of masterminding the failed coup and terrorism. The Gülen movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Among the detainees were 18 civil servants. While 86 of the suspects have been released from detention, 373 have been released on judicial probation, meaning that they have to regularly check in a police station.

The mass detention of so many people for distributing or receiving donations has attracted widespread criticism from politicians and human rights activists from within and without Turkey.

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.

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