Turkish gov’t detains 11 military officers over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government on Friday detained 11 military officers who were dismissed by government decree under a now-ended state of emergency as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, 11 officers were detained during simultaneous raids conducted in Eskişehir, Sivas, Bilecik and Afyonkarahisar provinces following the issuance of detention warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 22 military officers. The officers were accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement with pre-paid phone cards.

Meanwhile, 20 Turkish flag officers previously imprisoned on accusations of plotting a coup have been appointed to key posts within the military, the Sözcü newspaper said on Thursday.

More than 300 military officers were convicted in 2012 in the Sledgehammer trial. Courts that act under the directive of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cleared the same officers in 2015 after the government and the movement had a falling out.

Maj. Gen. Levent Ergün, who was previously sentenced to 13 years in prison in the Sledgehammer trial, has been appointed as the head of the General Staff’s operations division, while two other Sledgehammer suspects became vice chiefs of staff of Turkey’s Aegean army and navy.

Thousands of officers alleged linked to the Gülen movement have been jailed since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

On Friday, Turkish gendarmerie forces detained five people in Edirne province over alleged links to the Gülen movement as they were reportedly trying to escape persecution in Turkey to Greece. Gendarmerie forces also detained four human smugglers. It was reported that the detainees are teachers who were dismissed from their jobs by government decrees under the state of emergency.

In Balıkesir province, a number books by Fethullah Gülen were seized along with magazines, CDs and a newspaper as evidence of alleged “terror organisation” affiliation.

According to local media, an Edremit man, identified as A.L.K., was detained on charges of membership in the Gülen movement. Police searched his home and seized copies of some books written by Gülen, several copies the now-closed publications such as the Sızıntı magazine and Zaman newspaper. Among the seized materials were also CDs featuring Gülen’s faith-based speeches.

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 the coup attempt in July 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 organisation,” 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 more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. 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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