Turkey issued detention warrants for 176 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish authorities have over the past week ordered the detention of 176 people including teachers, doctors, academics, lawyers, active duty and dismissed military officers, former cadets and civilians due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to reports by Turkish media.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office today issued detention warrants for 10 teachers over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile application. ByLock is an encrypted messaging app used on smartphones and was available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

Detention warrants for 21 people including doctors, academics and lawyers were also issued today over alleged Gülen links by the Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in northwestern Turkey.

On Tuesday Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of 13 people. The suspects are accused of continuing involvement in the movement’s activities and of using the ByLock messaging app.

Turkish authorities claim that ByLock was a communication tool exclusively used by members 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.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based 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 on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 132 people including active duty, dismissed and retired military officers, former cadets and civilians over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations across 34 provinces and detained 94 suspects. The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement via payphones to avoid detection.

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. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on February 20 that a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.

The government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.

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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