Turkish actor Pekin and 8 others arrested over alleged links to Gülen movement

Ömer Pekin

Turkish comedian and theater actor Ömer Pekin and 8 more actors, who were detained during operations across 14 provinces in an İzmir-based investigation targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement on November 3, 2017, were arrested by a local court on Sunday.

Eighteen artists and theater players were detained last week in 14 provinces in the framework of an investigation initiated by the İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office over a testimony of a secret witness. Nine actors, including Ömer Pekin, who has been mostly known with his role in Turkish radio comedy “Perişan FM (Miserable FM)” and state-run TRT’s puppet show “Kuklagiller – (Pupet Family),” were detained on November 3, were arrested on Sunday over the charge of “being members of a terrorist organization.” The other 9 people were released by the same court with electronic clamp and judicial probation.

İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for 41 people basing on a testimony of a secret witness and 18 of them were detained across 14 provinces on November 3, 2017.

The arrested theater actor Pekin was reportedly accused of attempting to make some names famous in the Gülen movement, and also attempting for famous people to gain sympathy for the movement. Pekin has also been accused of having used ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Atalay Demirci

Renowned Turkish comedian Atalay Demirci was also reported to be among the detainees in the investigation, media reported. Demirci had spent 1 year and 17 days under pre-trial detention over similar charges before being released pending trial on August 17, 2017.

Demirci faces aggravated life imprisonment and additional jail sentence of up to 10 year on accusations of membership to a “terrorist organization,” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish government and the Turkish Parliament.”

An indictment drafted by the prosecutor’s office sought a life sentence and an additional sentence of up to 10 years, to be served consecutively, for the comedian on charges of alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Tweets between Demirci and former Turkish football player Hakan Şükür and Enes Kanter, a Turkish basketball player in the NBA, who are also accused of links to the Gülen movement, are cited in the indictment as evidence of Demirci’s ties to the faith-based group.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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