Turkey detains 108 people over alleged Gülen links: minister

Turkish police have detained 108 people across 29 provinces over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group targeted by the government, Turkey’s interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, announced on X.

Yerlikaya said the detainees included suspects who were involved in the movement’s alleged infiltration of the police and the military and were accused of having secretly communicated with their contacts within the movement via pay phones, or individuals whose sentences over Gülen links were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals and were at large.

The so-called “pay phone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same pay phone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links.

The minister also said that “large amounts of foreign currency and Turkish lira” as well as a number of digital materials and documents were confiscated in raids conducted in the provinces of Adana, Ankara, Adıyaman, Antalya, Aksaray, Aydın, Bolu, Bursa, Denizli, Eskişehir, Erzincan, Giresun, Isparta, İstanbul, İzmir, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Kahramanmaraş, Kırşehir, Malatya, Mersin, Muş, Sakarya, Sinop, Siirt, Şırnak, Tokat and Uşak.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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 an 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.

Turkish authorities routinely rely on witness statements as evidence to identify and prosecute members of the group.

The defendants in the trials against the movement are often encouraged to benefit from the country’s repentance laws allowing for reduced penalties in exchange for denouncing other members of the group.

In recent years, there have also been many reports about the alleged use of torture and ill-treatment in custody to coerce detainees into becoming informants and incriminating others.

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