Turkey issued detention warrants for 63 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish authorities have over the past week ordered the detention of 63 people including lawyers, teachers, retired military personnel and former police officers due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to reports by Turkish media.

The İzmir Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 15 people including teachers and businessmen on accusations that they deposited money at Bank Asya six years ago and used the ByLock messaging app, once widely available online and considered by the government to be a tool of secret communication among supporters of the movement. Twelve of the suspects were detained the same day by the police.

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.

The same office on Thursday ordered the detention of 15 people including former officers and retired military personnel. Two of the suspects have been taken into custody.

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 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.

Detention warrants for 23 former police officers were issued on Wednesday by the Aydın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in western Turkey. Police conducted operations across 13 provinces to detain the suspects.

Turkish police also detained 10 lawyers on Tuesday as part of an operation carried out in İstanbul, Ankara, Adana, Van, Diyarbakır, Antalya and Denizli provinces and targeted members of the Gülen movement.

According to a statement by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, an advocacy group defending lawyers’ rights, 450 lawyers have been sentenced to 2,786 years in total on trumped-up charges of terrorism since the 2016 failed coup.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, 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 Gülen movement.

The Turkish 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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