Turkish court sentences Fethullah Gülen’s cousin to 21 years in prison

Mehmet Mezher Gülen

A court in the Aegean city of İzmir on Thursday handed down a 21-year jail sentence to a cousin of Fetullah Gülen, whose teachings have inspired the global Gülen movement.

The İzmir 13th High Criminal Court gave jail terms to three people, including Fethullah Gülen’s cousin Mehmet Mezher Gülen, over their links to the Gülen movement. The court sentenced Mehmet Mezher Gülen to 21 years in prison, Ersin Topuz to 11 years and Mehmet Daşönü to 12 years, nine months for allegedly attempting to violate the constitutional order.

Mehmet Mezher Gülen was also accused of using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among 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 a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, a court in İstanbul on Thursday handed down life sentences to 53 military officers for alleged involvement in the failed coup. The 22nd Criminal Court convicted 53 out of 131 defendants of allegedly “attempting to abolish constitutional order.” Out of the 53 convicts who received life terms, 18 were given aggravated life.  The court also acquitted 69 suspects of all charges, while three other suspects were sentenced to jail terms of over 12 years.

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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