Turkish gov’t detains 96 people, mostly military officers, over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has detained at least 96 people, mostly military officers, across Turkey on Thursday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement  as part of the government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the movement.

Turkish government has detained 12 on-duty military officers from Turkish Air Forces in 3 provinces across Turkey on Thursday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement as part of a Bursa-based investigation. It was reported that the military officers, who were detained in Kocaeli, Batman, İzmir, İstanbul, Kütahya and Adana provinces, include captains and lieutenants from Turkish Air Forces.

In an investigation targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement in another northwestern province, Kocaeli, 13 former military officers were detained in five different provinces. It was reported that the police are still working to find a former lieutenant who is at large.

Moreover, in Mersin province, 31 people who were former military officers of Turkish Naval Forces and Coast Guard Command were detained on Thursday over their alleged links to the movement.

Meanwhile, 23 people were detained in 17 provinces across Turkey following detention warrants issued by İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office for 64 people over their alleged use of mobile phone messaging application ByLock.

It was reported that that detainees include academic and administrative staff of Şifa and Gediz universities which were closed by a government decree under the rule of emergency in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and the staff of Dokuz Eylül and Ege universities in İzmir.

Moreover, in the central Eskisehir province, Turkish police detained 10 people in simultaneous raids; detentions also took place in Antalya and Ankara. The detainees were accused of using ByLock. In another operation in Eskisehir a former military officer was detained over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In Turkey’s central Kırşehir province, the police arrested 4 people, including teachers and a manager of a student dormitory which was closed by a government decree under the rule of emergency over its alleged affiliation to the Gülen movement.

Also, Abdulkadir Şengün, a professor of dentistry and the former rector of Turkey’s Turgut Özal University, has been sentenced to eight years, one month and 15 days in prison. Under arrest over alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement since Aug. 23, 2016, Şengün was sentenced on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. The sentence was handed down during the final hearing of Şengün’s trial on Thursday. Şengün was appointed rector of Turgut Özal University in 2011 and held the post until a failed coup last July, immediately after which the government shut down the university.

One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of the widespread purge following the failed coup attempt in July of last year. The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In February Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the Turkish military. A month later Işık declared that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.

The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government planned to investigate 90,000 more military members over links to the Gülen movement.

“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 22,920 military personnel were dismissed for their connections to the movement as Erdoğan and the government assert, why did only 8,651 military members participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.

In February Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

Director General of Public Security Selami Altınok on Tuesday said 22,987 police officers have been dismissed over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 12, 2017 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, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency.

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