Turkey detained 544 over Gülen links: minister

Turkish police have detained 544 people across 62 provinces over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on Tuesday.

Yerlikaya said the detainees included people who were involved in the movement’s alleged infiltration of public institutions through cheating in the civil servant selection exams as well as those who were identified as users of ByLock, a mobile messaging application.

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

Turkish authorities continue to detain and prosecute people over ByLock use in defiance of a landmark European Court of Human Rights decision in late 2023 which concluded that the use of the app cannot be considered as evidence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 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.

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