Turkish government arrests dozens over alleged links to Gülen movement

An Ankara court remanded 39 former police officers in custody early Saturday morning as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

It was reported that detained 51 former police officers were brought to a Ankara court to provide testimony. The detainees were allegedly using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. The court has arrested 39 police officers who were dismissed by government decrees under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The remaining 12 detainees were released by the court under judicial probation.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and homemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, 18 out of 24 people who were detained over their alleged links to the Gülen movement were arrested and sent to jail by an İzmir court on Saturday. Six detainees were released by the court under judicial probation.

Turkish gendarmerie forces have detained Bülent Kınay and Fatih Mehmet Uslu, two former judges who were dismissed from their duties under the rule of emergency and wanted by Turkish authorities, on Saturday as they were trying to flee from Turkey to Greece.

A total of 27 suspects were convicted on Friday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The 23rd Criminal Court in the eastern province of Erzurum sentenced 12 suspects, including former soldiers and security staff, to aggravated life sentences, and seven others to life sentences for their alleged role in attempting to take over the Turk Telekom building and İstanbul Governor’s Office.

In another hearing in the Black Sea province of Karabük, the court sentenced 8 former security staff up to 7 years in prison. The court also ordered the release of three suspects, two under judicial control.

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 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 them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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