Turkish government detains 78 lawyers over alleged links to Gülen movement on Wednesday

Turkish police has detained 78 lawyers in an investigation as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement on Wednesday.

In an İstanbul-based probe, İstanbul’s Chief Prosecutor Office has issued arrest warrants for 189 lawyers on charges of being members of the Gülen movement. Turkish government which is under strict rule of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labels faith-based pacifist Gülen movement as “a terror organization.”

It was reported that the operation, based in İstanbul, was launched across Turkey’s eight provinces and some of the detainees have been accused of having the ByLock cellphone messaging application. After detaining 78 lawyers on Wednesday, police has been searching to catch the remaining lawyers who were wanted over arrest warrants issued about them by İstanbul Prosecutor Office.

On June 2, 2017, 22 lawyers were also detained by police and later arrested by a court in İzmir province including Amensty International’s Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç.

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.

Turkish government have issued sweeping arrest warrants against more than 1100 lawyers within last 11 months on what is believed to be a part of crackdown on critics and opponents of Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and his government.

So far at least 454 lawyers including prominent criminal law attorneys and heads of provincial Bar Associations were formally arrested while many were forced to self-exile to avoid torture and ill treatment in jails. The government also purged at least 108 academics including famous law professors from law schools of public universities and fired over 100 government lawyers en masse.

What is more, the authorities also ordered the seizure of all assets of lawyers who faced an arrest although they were not convicted of any crime and there was no indictment filed and no trial hearing held yet. The seizure of assets has deprived family members of their livelihood while lawyers are left languishing behind bars in long pre-trial detentions.

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 President 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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