Turkish court sentences former civil servant to 9 years for alleged ByLock use

A civil servant who was removed from his job by a government decree has been handed down a jail sentence of eight years, nine months for using a smartphone application known as ByLock, Turkish media reports said on Wednesday.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

The former civil servant, Fatih Çopur, attended the final hearing of his trial at the Kayseri 2nd High Criminal Court from prison via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS).

In his defense, Çopur denied using ByLock and having any links to the Gülen movement.

“I am not a terrorist. I have worked with self-sacrifice all through my life. I have always stayed away from terrorism. Now, I am being tried facing terror charges. I am innocent,” Çopur said.

The panel of judges at the court gave him the lengthy prison sentence on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and ruled for the continuation of his imprisonment.

Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen, and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since the failed coup. About 20,000 people had been detained over alleged links to the movement by the end of September 2018.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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