Turkish courts give long prison sentences to alleged members of Gülen movement over trivial evidences

A teacher, Hasan Günay, who used to work for Private Yamanlar College which was one of the most successfull Turkish schools before unlawfully closed by Turkish government with an executive decree following the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, was given 11 years of prison sentence by an İzmir court on Wednesday.

Turkish courts, which are under the strict control and directives of the Turkish government led by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have continued to give arbitrary and long prison sentences for the people who are accused of being alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Turkish courts have been showing the tried people’s legal bank accounts, their regular money transfers through banks, being members to legitimate labor unions or business associations, because of the companies or educational institutions that they used to work for, sending their children to the private schools which were unlawfully closed by government decrees following the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 as evidences for their controversial and arbitrary decisions to give many years of imprisonment for the “suspects.”

As a victim of a trial of this kind, teacher Günay was also accused by İzmir’s 3rd High Criminal Court of having a bank account in unlawfully closed private lender Bank Asya, working as a teacher for Gülen movement affiliated Private Yamanlar College, sending his children to the private schools affiliated with the Gülen movement. The court first gave 7 years and 4 months of prison sentence for teacher Günay, but by alleging that Günay has showed no sign of remorse it increased his prison sentence to 11 years. Günay was detained by police October 12, 2016.

Meanwhile, a High Criminal Court in Bartın province has sentenced 5 people who are executives or members of Bartın Aktif Businessmen Association to prison terms between 10 years, 6 months to 9 years on Wednesday.

The court has given the general secretary of the association Hasan Önder, businessman Şeref Yıldırım, imam Namık Şengül, who was dismissed from Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) with a government decree under the emergency rule, and retired imam Hüseyin Öztürk 10 years and 6 months prison sentences, while the association’s executive board member Yonis Özpeynirci was given 9 years of prison sentence.

Furthermore, Kayseri Chief Prosecutor Office has issued arrest warrants for 35 people who were accused of transfering money to the educational facilities abroad which are affiliated with the Gülen movement through private lender Bank Asya. Since 19 of the wanted people live abroad, it was reported that the police has launched operations in four different Turkish provinces to catch 14 of them and detained 6 people during these operations.

Also, 11 people who worked as teachers in schools and associations closed down by government decree and who had social security records in companies with accounts at the Gülen movement-linked Bank Asya have been detained in Mersin as part of an investigation into an attempted coup in Turkey last July, on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, 18 people were also detained by police in Kocaeli province. Kocaeli Chief Prosecutor Office has issued arrest warrants for 20 people over allegedly having used ByLock mobile phone messaging tool and being executives of the civil society organizations affiliated with the Gülen movement. Police has been reported to continue searching 2 people to detain

Turkish authorities consider ByLock to be the top communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since a failed and controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016..

A  comprehensive report, whic was released by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” , provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints on rights violations.

It lists many recent cases showing the ways in which  President Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulates judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary assets seizures was pursued by political authorities.

In addition to jailing thousands of judges and prosecutors, Turkey has also imprisoned hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers, making extremely difficult for detainees to access to a lawyer in violation of a due process and fair trial protections under the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedures.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 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 participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13.

June 14, 2017

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