Turkish gov’t detains 52 teachers, military officers over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained a total of 52 people, including teachers and military officers, in 12 provinces across Turkey on Friday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the 52 detainees are among 80 people sought under detention warrants issued by prosecutors in Ankara. They include 12 active-duty majors and 20 lieutenants serving in the Gendarmerie General Command, 18 of whom have been detained so far.

The detainees also include 34 teachers who used to work for schools closed by the Turkish government under an ongoing state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, out of 48 teachers being sought.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on April 10 had issued detention warrants for 79 teachers who were former staff at schools linked with Gülen movement. The tr724 news website reported in early March that the office had issued 300 detention warrants in one month for teachers who had worked at schools owned by people close to the Gülen movement.

Also on Friday, the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for six active duty military officers of varying ranks as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, three Turkish military officers were given aggravated life sentences on Friday for allegedly violating the constitution during a controversial coup attempt in 2016.

Lt. Gen. Metin İyidil, commander of the Land Forces Training and Doctrine Command (EDOK) and EDOK staff officers Maj. Gen. Hamza Koçyiğit and Lütfü İhsan Yanıkoğlu were convicted by the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court of allegedly trying to violently overthrow Turkey’s constitutional order as part of the coup attempt.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government dismissed 24,977 military members including 150 generals, 4,630 officers, 2,167 noncommissioned officers, 1,210 specialized sergeants, 411 civil servants and workers, and 16,409 cadets following the failed coup over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli on April 18 said the government has identified 3,000 active duty military officers suspected of links to the Gülen movement and that they will be dismissed with a government decree in the coming days.

The government has up until now employed 15,850 military personnel including 1,763 officers, 4,135 noncommissioned officers, 3,698 specialized sergeants, 6,162 contracted privates and 92 civil servants, the report said.

The Turkish government announced on Jan. 2 that it would enlist 42,938 new military personnel. A total of 3,755 officers, 5,375 noncommissioned officers, 13,213 specialized sergeants and 20,595 contracted privates are planned to fill the ranks.

In February 2017 Defense Minister Fikri Işık said 30,000 new recruits would be enlisted in the Turkish military. Official statements claim that 8,651 military members including cadets and privates took part in the failed coup.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the 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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