Turkish gov’t detained 568 people over alleged links to Gülen movement in a week

Turkish government has detained 568 people as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement across Turkey between Feb. 5-12, 2018, according to a written statement made by Turkish Interior Ministry on Monday. Turkish government detained 518 people over the same accusation during the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 5 2018.

Also on Monday, at least 37 people, including on-duty military officers, have been detained by Turkish government across Turkey over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In central Eskisehir province, a married couple were detained on Monday for being alleged members of the Gülen movement after detention warrants were issued by Zonguldak Chief Prosecutors’ Office. In another operation in Eskişehir, a suspended air force personnel was detained over the same accusation.

Simultaneous operations were also conducted in Balıkesir, Malatya and Çanakkale provinces and 9 people, including suspended and active military officers were detained over their alleged links to the movement.

Separately, 10 people, including on-duty military officers were detained in Kahramanmaraş, Ankara, İstanbul, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa provinces following the detention warrants issued by Kahramanmaraş’ Chief Prosecutor’s Office over their alleged links to the Gülen movement on Monday.

Also in an Iğdır-based investigation into the Gülen movement followers, 15  businessmen were detained on Monday. It was reported that the detainees were members of Active Businessmen and Industrialists (AKTİSAD) Association and were accused of providing financial support for the Gülen movement’s educational and charity activities.

Meanwhile, Ankara’s 13th High Criminal Court has sentenced the wife of a former general to 18 years in jail on Monday. Nazire Terzi had been convicted on the charge of allegedly aiding those who violated the country’s constitution. Her husband Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was allegedly one of the coup bid leaders and was shot dead on July 15, 2016, by Sgt. Ömer Halisdemir.

According to the reports in Turkish media, Nazire Terzi said her “only crime was to be the wife of Brig. Gen. Terzi” during a hearing at the court. The judges also decided to keep her in prison while the decision awaits approval in the higher courts.

Lt. Enes Yılmaz, a suspect in the failed coup, said during his defense in court in March 2017 that Brig. Gen. Terzi was invited to Ankara by Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı, who ordered Halisdemir to murder Terzi.

“Semih Terzi was invited to Ankara by Zekai Aksakallı. The day before July 15, three battalions that were under the command of Terzi were deployed to other places. Could Gen. Aksakallı, who is aware when even one soldier leaves the main entrance of the barracks, not have been aware of this? Gen. Aksakallı must be heard,” Yılmaz said during a hearing at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court, where the team that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hotel in Marmaris on the night of July 15 are standing trial.

Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, the commander of the team that targeted Erdoğan’s hotel in Marmaris, said in his defense in February 2017 that they received an order from the office of the Chief of General Staff but were intentionally deceived and kept waiting for four hours.

“The order came from Semih Terzi. He said the Turkish Armed Forces had taken over control of the country. He said the order was from the Chief of General Staff’s office. … We were sent into a trap. Who kept us waiting for four hours before taking off?” Sönmezateş said during his defense at the Muğla 2nd High Criminal Court.

In a development that raises further suspicion about the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Turkey being staged, several military officers who are standing trial on coup charges have said National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan had an unusual meeting with chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Special Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakallı at a graduation ceremony that would normally take place at the Special Forces Command (ÖKK) on July 15 but was unexpectedly changed to July 14.

“This was something which we had never before seen or witnessed. I am saying this as someone who took part in the previous [graduation] ceremony. They had dinner and spoke to each other alone for three-and-a-half hours. Akar left at 23:30. Then Zekai Pasha and the MİT undersecretary walked around the area you investigated for 30 to 40 minutes. This also attracted our attention. After seeing the guests off, Zekai Pasha left at 00:30,” Turgay Usanmaz said, adding that he was of the belief that Gen. Aksakallı had prior knowledge about the coup attempt.

According to official reports, a major informed MİT about the coup plan at 14:00 and Fidan was with Akar at military headquarters until 20:30, half an hour before the failed coup attempt was launched.

Despite both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım having expressed their uneasiness with Fidan and Akar for failing to inform them about the coup attempt on July 15, and the fact that they had learned of the coup plot six hours earlier notwithstanding, the two retained their posts while over 150,000 people from state institutions were purged and jailed by the government after the failed coup.

Separately, a high criminal court in southern Adana province has also sentenced former police chief Doğan Oğuz to 6 years and 3 months in prison after convicting him on the charge of being an alleged member of the Gülen movement.

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 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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 Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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