Turkish government’s witch hunt targets military personnel, jurists over alleged Gülen links

The Turkish government on Thursday detained 15 military personnel and eight civilians, including six lawyers, across Turkey as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 15 military officers, including six on active duty, in seven Turkish provinces on Thursday following the issuance of detention warrants by the Manisa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for the 15 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The officers were detained in Manisa, İstanbul, İzmir, Bursa, Kocaeli, Balıkesir and Çanakkale provinces.

Meanwhile, the Tokat Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for eight people, including a dismissed judge, a dismissed judge candidate and six lawyers on Thursday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to Turkey’s Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) 572 lawyers have been put behind bars since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The majority of the lawyers were arrested on charges of “terrorism” due to their alleged links with the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has prosecuted 1,546 lawyers on overbroad charges based on questionable accusations that preclude the right to a defense; 590 lawyers remain under arrest, and 181 lawyers have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 12 years, according to data compiled by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.

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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