Turkey detains hundreds in renewed anti-Gülenist frenzy after COVID outbreak

Turkish authorities on June 9 ordered the detention of hundreds of people, military and civilian alike, as part of a massive crackdown targeting the faith-based Gülen movement, led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The İzmir Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of 191 military personnel including 173 active-duty officers. In operations carried out by the organized crime unit of the İzmir Police Department, the police had as of the time of writing taken 160 suspects into custody in İzmir and 25 other provinces across Turkey.

The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement with pre-paid phone cards as well as fraud in entrance exams for military schools.

The İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office in two separate investigations ordered the detention of 158 people including 29 active-duty military personnel. Eighty-six suspects have so far been put into police custody. These suspects are also accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement with pre-paid phone cards.

In another probe conducted by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, the authorities ordered the detention of 32 military personnel from the Turkish Air Forces including dismissed military officers as well as 15 active-duty officers and noncommissioned officers. Twenty-five suspects have so far been detained by the police in operations carried out in 14 provinces. According to a statement issued by the prosecutor’s office, the names of the suspects were obtained from the confessions of other suspects who benefitted from the repentance law in return for accusing others.

The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of eight dismissed and active-duty military personnel from the Turkish Gendarmerie, five of whom were put into police custody.

The Konya Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of 25 civilians. In operations carried out in 15 provinces the authorities have thus far detained 14 suspects.

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 coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization and began to target members of the movement.

Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding — an accusation strongly denied by the cleric — Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement, dismissing some 150,000 civil servants including teachers, doctors, academics and police officers as well as lawyers, journalists and members of the military by cabinet decree, locking up hundreds of thousands of them and seizing their assets.

According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, a total of 19,495 military personnel have been purged from the Turkish Armed Forces since the failed 2016 coup over their alleged ties to the movement.

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