Turkish courts arrest 88,000 people over alleged links to Gülen movement since 2016 coup bid

The Turkish government has investigated over 445,000 people and arrested some 88,000 as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to data compiled by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).

With at least 36,495 people still held in prison over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, human rights violations and maltreatment perpetrated by the Turkish government have been routine vis-a-vis alleged members of the movement.

As the Turkish government continues to dismiss from their jobs people who were allegedly affiliated with the movement, the judiciary, which is under the full control of the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pays no attention to the adequacy of evidence required to accuse one of membership in a terrorist organization.

While judges and prosecutors refuse to comply with the criteria of an independent judiciary, the number of suspicious deaths under police custody or in prisons is increasing day by day because of widespread and systematic torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

A string of prison deaths in Turkey has attracted suspicion since the coup attempt. SCF reported in one of its studies titled “Suspicious Deaths and Suicides In Turkey” that there has been an increase in the number of suspicious deaths in Turkey, most in jails and detention centers, where torture and ill-treatment are being practiced. In the majority of cases, authorities concluded they were suicides without any effective, independent investigation.

Suspicious deaths have also taken place beyond prison walls amid psychological pressure and threats of imminent imprisonment and torture, sometimes following the release of suspects or just before their detention. SCF has compiled 122 cases of suspicious deaths and suicides in Turkey in a list in a searchable database format.

According to the most recent data released by the Interior Ministry, the Turkish government detained a total of 478 people during the week of Sept. 17-24 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Meanwhile, it was announced that a total of 19,197 people were detained between Jan. 1 and Sept. 23, 2018, over alleged links to the movement.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül stated in July 2018 that the Turkish government has investigated and prosecuted 441,195 people as part of the post-coup witch hunt it has conducted against alleged members of the movement since the July 15, 2016 coup bid.

According to data released by Gül’s ministry, 89,718 of those who have been investigated and prosecuted are women, while 351,477 are men. A total of 5,315 out 203,518 people who were investigated have been held in prison, while 16,195 out of 83,722 people who have been tried have been held in prisons.

The statistics of the Turkish Justice Ministry show that the courts have convicted 34,926 people over their alleged membership in the Gülen movement while acquitting 13,992 people of the same charge. A total of 12,617 out of 34,926 people who were convicted by the courts have not been released.

While 2,368 out of 5,370 defendants in the ongoing trial of 108 cases related to coup bid were kept in prisons, 2,386 people have been released on parole, 528 of them have never been arrested and 88 of them have never been detained.

Turkish high criminal courts have handed down 636 aggravated life sentences (including four aggravated life sentences to 31 defendants and three life sentences to four defendants) and 888 life sentences. The same courts have also sentenced 653 defendants to between one year, two months and 20 years of imprisonment. The courts have acquitted 1,552 defendants and refrained from sentencing 595 people. In total, the courts have released verdicts for 4,324 people.

Detentions of alleged members of the Gülen movement by week in 2018.

Sept. 17-Sept. 24: 478 people

Sept. 10-Sept. 17: 402 people

Sept. 3-Sept. 10: 239 people

Aug. 27-Sept. 3: 153 people

Aug. 20-Aug. 27: 23 people

Aug. 13-Aug. 20: 221 people

Aug. 6-Aug. 13: 312 people

July 30-Aug. 6: 334 people

July 23-July 30: 209 people

July 23-July 16: 334 people

July 9-July 16: 467 people

July 2-July 9: 885 people

June 25-July 2: 777 people

June 18-June 25: 198 people

June 11-June 18: 119 people

June 4-June 11: 492 people

May 28-June 4: 446 people

May 21-May 28: 545 people

May 14- May 21: 537 people

May 7- May 14: 967 people

April 30-May 7: 587 people

April 23-April 30: 489 people

April 16-April 23: 532 people

April 9-April 16: 702 people

April 2-April 9: 561 people

March 26-April 2: 853 people

March 19-March 26: 568 people

March 12-March 19: 537 people

March 5-March 12: 740 people

Feb. 26-March 5: 765 people

Feb. 19-Feb. 26: 646 people

Feb. 12-Feb. 19: 567 people

Feb. 5-Feb. 12: 568 people

Jan. 29-Feb. 5: 518 people

Jan. 22-Jan. 29: 623 people

Jan. 15-Jan. 22: 615 people

Jan. 8-Jan. 15: 721 people

Jan. 1-Jan. 8: 467 people

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.

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