Turkey’s Justice Minister: 149,833 investigated, 48,636 arrested since July 15 coup attempt

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Saturday said 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.

Providing recent figures about a purge that the government has been conducting against Gülen movement sympathizers, Bozdağ said 149,833 people have been investigated since the July 15 coup attempt.

“A total of 166 generals, 6,810 officers of varying ranks and 8,677 police officers were among those arrested,” Bozdağ said, speaking to party members in Yozgat.

Bozdağ added that 35,783 people were released on judicial probation and that 6,791, including 139 soldiers and 364 police officers, are still at large.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, two judges were taken into custody over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The two judges were earlier dismissed from their profession over the same charges. At least 4,319 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed from their jobs over ties to the movement since July 15.

Bozdağ also said a visit to the US that will start on Sunday would focus on the temporary detention of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and his extradition to Turkey, not on Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in the US in 2016 for violating sanctions against Iran.

“We will bring them [Gülen and his followers] to Turkey sooner or later,” Bozdağ said, speaking to party members in Yozgat.

Recalling that he would meet with the US attorney general on Monday ahead of a visit by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Washington, Bozdağ said: “Some prosecutors who are working on this file [cases against the Gülen movement] are accompanying me, and they will have some technical meetings there, too.” Underlining that the visit would focus on Gülen, Bozdağ denied that the main focus would be Zarrab, saying, “You are lying.”

Last month Erdoğan said Zarrab’s case was one of the issues he would discuss with US President Donald Trump when they meet in May. Erdoğan said Zarrab is a Turkish citizen and that Turkey has to act to defend him.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation that became public in December 2013 in which then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s inner circle was implicated. Zarrab was arrested by US authorities in Miami in March 2016 on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it was under US sanctions for its nuclear program. However, shortly after Zarrab’s arrest, Erdoğan said the arrest of the businessman in the US is “none of Turkey’s business.”

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.

The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.

The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.

Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.

In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.

In February, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 6, 2017

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