Turkish gov’t detains 50 people including fighter pilots over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has detained 50 people on Thursday including many fighter jets’ pilots as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police have detained 50 people, including former and on-duty military officers, from 11 provinces as part of an Eskisehir-based probe following the detention warrants issued by Eskişehir Chief Prosecutor’s Office for 66 people including fighter pilots.

İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for 360 people on Wednesday and 172 of them were detained in 49 provinces across Turkey. It was reported that 333 of people who have been wanted are military officers including 117 of them who were dismissed previously by the government decrees under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Nineteen military officers were detained later Wednesday in the western provinces of Muğla and İzmir over the alleged links to Gülen movement. In Balıkesir province, a former naval captain was also detained over their alleged links to the Gülen movement on Wednesday.

One hundred thirty generals and admirals in the Turkish military were either dismissed or suspended as part of a widespread purge following the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In February Defense Minister Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the Turkish military.
A month later Işık declared that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had dismissed a total of 22,920 military personnel (6,511 officers and 16,409 cadets) after the coup attempt although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that only 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in the failed coup.

The Cumhuriyet daily reported in March that the government planned to investigate 90,000 more military members over links to the Gülen movement.

“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 22,920 military personnel were dismissed for their connections to the movement as Erdoğan and the government assert, why did only 8,651 military members participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.

In February, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempton July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic 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, 2016. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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