Turkey orders detention of 249 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish authorities have over the past week ordered the detention of 249 people including former diplomats, teachers, dismissed civil servants, active duty and former military and police officers, and former cadets due to alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday issued detention warrants for 29 former diplomats. Police conducted operations across 15 provinces to detain them. The suspects are accused of using 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.

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.

As part of an investigation launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants were issued on Wednesday for 39 women including a teacher and three midwives over Gülen links. Thirty-two of the women were detained the same day following raids across five provinces. The detention warrants targeting the women were issued based on the allegations of a secret witness, named “garson” (waiter). The women are accused of organizing activities among female members of the movement.

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 the 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 has also ordered the detention of 158 individuals including active duty and former military officers and former cadets. The suspects are accused of using payphones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement.

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 police on Monday detained 15 former police academy students as part of an İstanbul-based operation after prosecutors issued detention warrants for 23 of them.

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.

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