Turkey intensifies crackdown on Gülen movement, orders detention of 73 in 2 days

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Prosecutors have intensified Turkey’s crackdown on the Gülen movement following the announcement of a new cabinet by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday and in two days have ordered the detention of 73 people due to alleged links to the movement, according to local media reports.

In two separate investigations, the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 30 individuals including lawyers and former civil servants for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of “terrorist” activities. The police have launched operations to detain the suspects.

Nineteen people were also detained on Tuesday in nine provinces after the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 23 suspects including active duty and dismissed military officers and former military cadets.

As part of an investigation launched by the Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants were issued on Monday for 19 individuals including businessmen and active duty and former military officers. Some of them were accused of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app used on smartphones that used to be available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. Turkish police conducted operations in seven provinces and detained 18 of the suspects.

President 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 ByLock messaging app, once widely available online, is considered by the government to be a tool of secret communication among supporters of the movement. The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has repeatedly stated that arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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.

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