Turkish F-16 pilot who escorted Erdoğan’s plane in wake of coup bid arrested over Gülen links

Yunus Poyraz (29), a pilot who escorted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plane on the night of a coup attempt in 2016, was arrested along with his pilot brother by a Turkish court as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by the pro-government Sabah daily on Thursday, twin brothers Yunus Poyraz and Emre Poyraz, who served in the Tigers of the Turkish Air Force’s 192 Filo (SQN) from Balikesir under NATO command, were arrested as part of investigations in İzmir and Konya provinces. Yunus Poyraz was reportedly assigned to escort Erdoğan’s plane in an F-16 following the abortive coup.

The report claimed that Capt. İbrahim Poyraz, the elder brother of the twins and also a fighter jet pilot, was charged with alleged involvement in the coup attempt. He was also accused of alleged participation in a coup meeting at the Air Forces War Academy and his alleged role in the holding of military officers on the night of the coup.

Since the ByLock mobile phone messaging app could not be found on the mobile phones of the twins, they have been accused of affiliation with the Gülen movement in the Turkish military.

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 the coup attempt.

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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