Thirty people, including active duty and dismissed military officers, have been detained on warrants issued by Turkish prosecutors for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of “terrorist” activities, according to local media reports.
As part of an investigation launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants were issued on Thursday for 33 individuals over alleged Gülen links. Turkish police conducted operations in nine provinces and detained 30 of the suspects.
The accusations against the suspects include secretly communicating with their contacts within the movement via payphones. The detention warrants were issued based on lists drafted by the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detailing people who used payphones.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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 an abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone 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.
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 24,706 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.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.