Turkey detains 22 more people in operation targeting Gülen followers

Turkish police on Wednesday detained 22 more people out of 23 named in detention warrants as part an ongoing operation into the financial activities of followers of the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In October Turkish police detained 678 people out of 704 sought on detention warrants as part of the massive “Gazi Turgut Aslan Operation” into the financial activities of followers of the Gülen movement. The detentions began on October 18 after the operation was announced by the country’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu. Since then, a total of 219 people have been arrested and 373 have been released under judicial supervision, meaning they have to regularly check in a police station.

Wednesday’s detentions were a continuation of the operation, with simultaneous raids across seven provinces led by police teams from central Eskişehir province.

Police confiscated some 500,000 Turkish lira ($29,500) found in the houses of the detainees, believed to have been sent by Gülen followers abroad as donations to the families of people jailed over links to the movement or removed from the civil service for the same reason.

Police said they are still searching for one remaining person named in the warrants.

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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