Turkish gov’t detains 44 people, mostly military personnel, over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday detained dozens of people across Turkey, mostly military personnel, as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 23 military personnel on Wednesday in 11 provinces following the issuance of detention warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 32 members of the Turkish Coast Guard Command, including two colonels, one captain, four lieutenants and 25 noncommissioned officers over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Four of the military personnel being sought are reported on active duty.

Also on Wednesday police detained 14 people in Bursa, İstanbul, Kocaeli, Van and Hatay provinces in a Bursa-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement over their suspected use 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 allegedly using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Police also detained seven people on Wednesday in İstanbul following the issuance of detention warrants by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 36 people over their alleged use of ByLock as part of Turkish government’s post-coup witch hunt targeting the Gülen movement.

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 a coup attempt on July 15, 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 organization,” 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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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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