Turkish courts hand down prison sentences to 41 people over alleged Gülen links

Turkish courts on Wednesday handed down sentences to 41 people as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In Ankara, a former Justice Ministry official was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of membership in the movement based on his alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Another court in the central province of Eskişehir sentenced 21 gendarmerie officers in an investigation into alleged members of the Gülen movement. The court sentenced three of the officers to between four and six years in prison but decided to release them due to time already served. The remaining officers were given prison sentences of between three and six years.

Meanwhile, the Kastamonu High Criminal Court sentenced 19 people, including nine in pretrial detention, to between three and 12 years over their links to the Gülen movement. Most of the defendants were reportedly former employees of private companies whose owners which are allegedly affiliated with the movement.

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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