Turkish gov’t detains 461 people over links to Gülen movement in past week

The Turkish government detained a total of 461 people last week (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the Turkish Interior Ministry on Monday, bringing the total number of people detained over alleged links to the movement in the first nine months of 2018 to 19,798.

Meanwhile, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday issued detention warrants for 47 people over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application as part of the same witch hunt.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, 25 of the 47 suspects were detained by police in early morning operations. The 47 include 44 former and current staff members of three ministries, two executives of a closed association and a former reporter from a closed media distribution company.

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.

Among the detainees were 14 staff members from the Health Ministry and private medical institutions; 27 former personnel from the Family, Labor and Social Services Ministry; and three former Education Ministry employees who were dismissed from their positions by government decrees under a now-ended state of emergency.

Three other detainees were reportedly former staff members of foundations that were shut down following the coup attempt in 2016 over their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement.

Also on Monday, at least 14 people, including some shopkeepers, were detained in Tokat province over their alleged links to the 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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