Turkey issues detention warrants for 2 ministries’ 18 former staff over alleged Gülen links

The Turkish government on Wednesday issued detention warrants for 18 former public servants who worked for two state ministries as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 10 staff members of the Ministry of Customs and Trade and eight from the Ministry of Youth and Sport on Wednesday over their alleged links to the movement. It was reported that all of these public servants were previously dismissed from their jobs by government decrees under a state of emergency and that all of them were alleged user of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Following the issuance of warrants police launched operations in 10 provinces across Turkey and detained seven people on Wednesday.

Separately, a total of 17 out of 20 military officers were remanded in custody after they were arrested as part of eastern Elazığ-based operation, which was conducted across 16 provinces by targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement. The remaining three were released under judicial probe.

In a central Kırşehir-based operation, security forces also detained 14 people on Wednesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Six people were also detained in Turkey’s border province of Edirne while they were reportedly fleeing Turkish government’s post-coup witch-hunt to Greece.

Hürriyet daily reported on Tuesday that a group of 6 people, rounded up along with Syrian and Afghan aslum seekers, were caught in a military zone near Edirne’s Paşaköy village. The Turkish detainees include a university student and a teacher who were earlier dismissed from his/her job over alleged links to the Gülen movement. All six had outstanding arrest warrants over alleged Gülen links prior to their escape attempt, Hürriyet reported.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others. On Feb 13, at least three people died and five others were missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape a post-coup crackdown in Turkey.

Also on Wednesday, a dismissed teacher and another person, both wanted over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, have been rounded up during an ID control by gendarmeries on a train. The 37-year-old teacher, identified as A.K., and another person, B.C., were detained following the gendarmerie forces found out that they have arrest warrants over Gülen links after a random ID control during a train ride between Elazığ and Adana provinces.

Meanwhile, Turkish prosecutors demanded multiple aggravated life sentences for military officers who allegedly plotted to replace the government after a  controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In the capital of Ankara, prosecutors recommended 252 aggravated life sentences for alleged members of the so-called “Peace at Home Council,” claiming that they are affiliated with the Gülen movement.

Two hundred twenty-four defendants are being tried in the main trial of former General Staff personnel, including alleged members of the so-called council, which was meant to replace the government if the coup attempt had been successful.

Akın Öztürk, accused of being one of the main coup-plotters, is among those facing multiple aggravated life sentences, along with Mehmet Dişli, formerly of the General Staff Strategy Department; İlhan Talu, former General Staff personnel chief; Ali Yazıcı, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former military aide; and Hakan Evrim, former commander of Ankara’s Akıncı Air Base.

Prosecutors also asked the court to charge the so-called council members with killing security forces and civilians the night of the controversial coup attempt, violating the Constitution, premeditated murder and attempting to assassinate the president.

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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