Turkish court imposes jail sentences on 342 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

A Turkish court in central Konya province on Wednesday handed down jail sentences to 342 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Konya’s 9th Criminal Court convicted 332 out of 478 people over their alleged membership in the movement, convicted eight people over allegedly aiding the movement and convicted two others on charges of allegedly “managing a terror group.” The jail sentences range from 18 months, 22 days to 13 years, six months.

Also on Wednesday, 63 police officers who were retired, suspended or dismissed from their job by government decrees under an ongoing state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 were detained by police in Gaziantep over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In an Aksaray-based investigation the provincial chief prosecutor’s office issued detention warrants for 41 people, including military officers on active duty, in 26 provinces across Turkey on Wednesday. Those being sought include a retired colonel, a colonel, a first lieutenant, two lieutenants, 34 noncommissioned officers and two sergeants.

Also, in a Muğla-based investigation police detained 15 active duty military officers following the issuance of detention warrants by the Muğla Chief Public Prosecutor’s Officer for 41 military personnel in 19 provinces across Turkey on Wednesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that 39 of those military officers are currently serving with the Navy, Coast Guard Command and Gendarmerie Command.

Police also detained 10 active duty military officers in a Zonguldak-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement. Detentions came after issuance of warrants by the provincial chief public prosecutor’s office for 15 military officers in 10 provinces in Turkey and northern Cyprus over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, at least 16 people were detained in Turkey’s western province of Muğla after they failed to escape to Greece on Tuesday. The group attempted to flee to the Greek island of Kos in a speed boat that was chased by the Turkish coast guard, acting on a tip, off Muğla. The boat carrying the group crashed into a reef in Kisebükü Bay.

The people aboard fled into the woods on the Kisebükü shore after the crash; however, they were rounded up in the forest. The group included six children, two former judges, two Defence Ministry employees and one Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) employee who all were earlier dismissed from their jobs over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of the coup attempt in July 2016.

Many tried to flee Turkey illegally as the government had cancelled their passports like thousands of others. On Feb 13, at least three people died and five others were missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape the post-coup crackdown in Turkey.

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 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. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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