Turkish government has arrested 30 more lawyers over alleged Gülen links on April 5 which is celebrated as Lawyers Day in Turkey. A lawyer representing Meral Akşener, a politician who was expelled from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) due to her bid to oust the incumbent chairman, is also among the 30 lawyers who were arrested on Wednesday as part of an investigation against the faith-based Gülen movement.
Last week, detention warrants were issued by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against 84 lawyers on the grounds that they use a smart phone application known as ByLock, considered by the Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Thirty-seven of the lawyers were detained and 30 of the lawyers including Akşener’s lawyer were arrested on Wednesday while seven of them were released on judicial probation.
The lawyers are being accused of being members of a terrorist organization.
Akşener has been waging a campaign against incumbent MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli, who is a supporter of a switch to an executive presidency. Akşener, on the other hand, opposes the changes to the constitution that will be voted in the referendum on April 16.
Akşener had been expelled from the party in September 2016 after she challenged Bahçeli.
Turkish authorities have issued sweeping arrest warrants against more than 1000 lawyers within last seven months on what is believed to be a part of crackdown on critics and opponents of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government. So far 403 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 108 academics including famous law professors from law schools of public universities and fired 108 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.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 which killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (SCF with turkishminute) April 5, 2017