Turkish gov’t detains 47 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish police have detained 47 people in an operation targeting alleged supporters of the Gülen movement in the army as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s pro-government private broadcaster CNN Turk on Saturday, the operation, which began on Tuesday, targeted 124 people accused of being members of the Gülen movement. The suspects were claimed to have operated as religious guides for high-ranking military personnel.

The operation, which focused on Konya province but extended over 31 provinces, comes ahead of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan say he has used a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 as a pretext to quash dissent.

Meanwhile, five people were stopped while fleeing Turkey to Greece where thousands of Turks have been seeking relief from Erdogan’s post-coup crackdown. Turkish media reported on Saturday that the group was apprehended near the Evros River in Edirne province along Turkey’s border with Greece.

A background check by gendarmes revealed that all members of the group except for a child were earlier blacklisted for their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging app.

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 controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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 the controversial coup attempt on July 15.

Many have tried to leave Turkey illegally as the government cancelled their passports along with thousands of others. Those who manage to flee mostly claim asylum on the basis of ever growing persecution from the Turkish government.

On Feb. 13, at least three people died and five others went missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape from Turkey.

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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