Turkey orders hundreds of detentions over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish prosecutors have over the past week ordered the detention of 273 people due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to local media reports.

As part of an investigation launched on Friday by the Balıkesir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants have been issued for 11 people, with police detaining nine of the suspects.

The same office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 71 people including teachers, health workers, former public officers and businessmen over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations in 21 provinces and detained 67 suspects.

An additional 33 detention warrants were issued in İstanbul and Konya provinces on Tuesday and Friday.

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 in July 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

On Tuesday the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 158 people including active duty and former military officers, healthcare workers and former police officers over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Raids were carried out on dozens of locations across 50 provinces to detain the suspects, who face accusations of using ByLock, a smart phone application considered a secret tool of communication among Gülen followers; having worked at Gülen-linked organizations or businesses; having contact with other Gülen followers; or having accounts at now-closed Gülen-linked Islamic lender Bank Asya.

Turkish judicial authorities have been using daily activities involving the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights as evidence of terrorist activity.

The latest SCF report, titled “Rule of law(lessness) in Erdoğan’s Turkey: Violation of the principle of legality and no punishment without law in post-coup trials,” focuses on how criminal prosecutions and trials conducted on charges of terrorism since the coup attempt are devoid of any legal grounds.

Following the abortive putsch, 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 29,444 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.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

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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