Turkish gov’t detains 53 Turkish Air Forces officers over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained 53 Turkish Air Forces personnel across Turkey on Friday as part of its massive post-coup witch-hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday that 53 air force officers, including 37 active-duty personnel, were detained across Turkey on Friday as part of an investigation into alleged members of the Gülen movement in the Turkish Air Forces.

The report said Turkish police conducted operations in 13 provinces as part of a Diyarbakır-based investigation targeting the Gülen movement.

The detentions came following the issuance of warrants by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 55 members of the air force, including 37 active-duty officers, 11 dismissed officers, five retired officers and two officers who had resigned.

Meanwhile, 22 out of 50 gendarmerie officers who were detained on October 16, 2018, were arrested on Friday and sent to pretrial detention by a court in Ankara. Thirty-seven of the officers are reportedly on active duty. The court ruled for the release of 28 officers on judicial probation.

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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