Turkey detains 22 people in another operation targeting Gülen followers

Turkish police have detained 22 people out of 25 named in detention warrants as part of an Ankara-based probe into academics and civil servants who have alleged links to the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The probe is being conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over allegations that members of the Gülen movement stole the questions of the Turkish national exams held between 2011 and 2013, had lived in student dormitories and houses claimed to be linked to the movement and that they had used pay phones to contact other members of the movement.

The use of pay phones is considered a suspicious act in the investigation into Gülen movement followers since prosecutors assume that a member of the movement used the same pay phone to call all of their contacts consecutively.

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.

The interrogation of the 22 suspects detained by the police is currently under way.

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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