Turkish gov’t detained 575 people in one week over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday that 575 people have been detained in one week due to alleged links to the Gülen movement. The ministry announced on Dec. 11 that 699 people had been detained the previous week.

According to a ministry statement on Nov. 27, 2,589 people were detained in November over alleged links to the movement, bringing the total number of people detained in the October-November period to 5,747.

A total of 3,158 people were detained in October in a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for 106 people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Monday. According to the report police have detained 62 of the 106 sought during operations in 20 provinces.

Turkish authorities have also claimed that the suspects have worked as “matchmakers” for the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. The suspects were ‘marriage officials,’ the İstanbul Police’s spokesman said, according to a report by Reuters.

The suspects were claimed to be using a mobile phone messaging application known as ByLock. Turkish authorities claim that ByLock is a communication tool among 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 a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkey has identified 215,092 alleged users of ByLock and has launched investigations into 23,171 of them, the interior minister said last month.

Freedom House, a US-based independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, listed Turkey in its “Freedom on the Net 2017” as among the countries in which Internet freedoms are restricted the most and said tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been arbitrarily detained for their alleged use of the encrypted communications app ByLock.

The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled in September that the ByLock smart phone application is to be considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organization following Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül’s remarks that ByLock constituted strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with 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.

Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the faith-based Gülen movement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been jailed and 234,419 passports have been revoked as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency. According to Ministry of Justice data, there are currently 384 prisons with a capacity of 207,279 in Turkey; however, the total number of inmates was 228,983 as of October 2017. The Turkish Ministry of Justice plans to build 228 new prisons with a capacity of 137,687 in the next five years. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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