Turkish gov’t detains 25 people, mostly doctors, over alleged Gülen links

The Turkish government detained 25 people, mostly doctors who used to work for hospitals closed over alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, in a Bursa-based investigation that is part of massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Thursday, 19 of the detainees who were employees of now-closed private health institutions, the Ceylan Bey Private Education Company and the Hatuniye Culture and Education Foundation were referred by a prosecutor’s office to a local court for arrest.

The detainees have been accused of depositing money into their personal accounts at now-closed private lender Bank Asya and their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Also on Thursday, three women, identified as Şeyma Bilgin, Gülsen Aydın and Hümeyra Taşkın, were arrested by a Bolu court over their alleged use of ByLock.

Turkish authorities believe that 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 on July 15, 2016.

Zübeyir Öksüz, cousin of Adil Öksüz, a major suspect in investigations into the controversial military coup attempt, was sentenced on Wednesday to nine years, nine months in prison on terror charges and membership in the Gülen movement.

Also on Wednesday, İstanbul-based lawyer Sibel Sevinç Deveci was arrested and put in pretrial detention by an İstanbul court due to her postings on social media deemed to be propaganda on behalf of the Gülen movement.

Deveci was detained at her home on Tuesday as part of an investigation in İstanbul. Her detention came three days after she tweeted: “As a judicial member I know that they will try to pretend they did not support the AKP. It will happen very soon. Do not forget.”

The tweet has attracted harsh reaction from pro-government social media accounts.

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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