Turkish gov’t detains 54 academics, university personnel over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has issued detention warrants on Wednesday for 171 academics and former personnel of the now-defunct Fatih University over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Police have detained 54 of them in 29 provinces across Turkey.

State-run Anadolu news agency reported that warrants were issued for people who used to work for Fatih University and that police carried out operations in 29 provinces including İstanbul and rounded up 54 of the them. It was reported that 26 of the detainees are women.

Pro-government media has also claimed that the targeted academicians and administrative personnel were all users of the mobile phone messaging application ByLock. Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the 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 the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Fatih University was earlier closed over ties to the Gülen movement. Also, at least 3,008 universities, schools and dormitories were shuttered over similar charges.

Menwhile,23 people were detained on Wednesday in İstanbul over their alleged use of ByLock following the detention warrants have been issued for 58 people by İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Turkish police have also detained 26 people, including on-duty military officers and teachers on Wednesday in 10 province across Turkey over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In a Sivas-based investigation 15 people were detained in 12 provinces over their alleged links to the movement. It was reported that the detainees include 13 on-duty military officers and non-commissioner officers, 1 military student and 1 academician.

Also on Wednesday, at least 10 people were detained during an early morning operation in southern province of Antalya. It was reported that doctors, academicians and teachers were among the detainees.

In another operation in eastern Igdır province, four people were detained on Wednesday over their alleged financial support to the Gülen movement.

In Denizli province, police have detained 5 people over their alleged links to the movement on Wednesday.

Police have detained a total of 16 people in southern province of Osmaniye while security forces also apprehended four people including businessmen in southeastern Gaziantep province over their alleged links to the Gülen movement on Wednesday.

The government has also detained 11 people, including 9 on-duty military officers in six provinces in a Zonguldak-based investigation targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a 42-year-old wrestler, identified as Hakan M., was detained after he attempted to leave Turkey for the 2017 Veteran’s Wrestling World Championships in Bulgaria.

According to Turkish media, Hakan M. was detained at Kapıkule border gate following a passport control by police in early October, this year. While the group of veteran wrestlers he accompanied managed to enter Bulgaria, Hakan M was rounded up by police.

Hakan M. earlier worked as a physiological counselor at a private school that was shut down over alleged ties to the Gülen movement, and an overseas travel ban was issued against him, media said.

The wrestling championship was held in Bulgaria’s Plovdiv between Oct 10-15, 2017 while Hakan M. was remanded in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison pending trial over ties to the movement.

Media reported earlier this month that eleven Turkish folk dancers left Turkey to attend a dance contest in Hungary and have never come back. Rumors had it they sought asylum somewhere in Europe over growing authoritarianism in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt back home.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15. Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others.

Moreover, Nurullah Şahinöz, a vocalist at the Presidential Classical Turkish Music Choir was reportedly removed from his position with the latest government decree, No 696, on Sunday. Turkish media has said Şahinöz was purged from his position as a vocalist at the presidential choir.

On Sunday, Turkish government purged a total of 2,756 people, including 105 academics, from state institutions in an accompanying decree, No. 695. The decree 695 also shuttered 7 associations, 7 foundations, 2 newspapers and a private company. 189 media outlets have been closed down since the summer of 2016.

An Istanbul court on Wednesday began hearing the trial of 19 dismissed personnel of the Turkish Air Force, including eight ex-soldiers who fled to Greece hours after last year’s coup bid. The former military officers — Ahmet Güzel, Gencay Boyuk, Feridun Çoban, Abdullah Yetik, Ugur Uçan, Süleyman Özkaynakçı, Mesut Fırat and Bilal Kurugül — fled to Greece in a stolen Black Hawk helicopter. They were dismissed from the military after they fled.

Turkey has repeatedly requested the extradition of the ex-soldiers. In late October, an indictment submitted to İstanbul’s 33rd Criminal Court, sought three aggravated life sentences for all suspects on charges of attempting to overthrow the country’s constitutional order. Prosecutors also sought up to 15 years behind bars for each suspect for being a member of an armed terrorist organization, and up to 30 years for six of the suspects on charges of attempted murder.

They also recommended aggravated life sentences for the ex-soldiers, whom arrest warrants in absentia were issued, for killings on the night of the defeated coup. Up to 15 years in prison had also been sought for the ex-soldiers on charges of fleeing to another country and deliberately damaging and stealing military materials.

Furthermore, a Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the release of 11 suspects from detention pending trial in a case related to last year’s controversial coup. The 14th Ankara High Criminal Court issued a release order for 11 of 68 suspects accused of attempting to take over the Special Forces Command in Ankara’s Gölbaşı district during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

Alperen Berat Durmuş, Ertuğrul Bozcal, Sedat Soysal, Selcuk Sert, Emrah Şentürk, Mehmet Kuşcu, Ömer Faruk Cavlazoğlu, Mehmet Koç, Yıldıray Yılmaz and Gürbüz Türk ve Raşit Özdilek were released on judicial control pending trial. The court also ordered the continuation of detention for the 57 other suspects. The next hearing in the case will be held from March 12-14, 2018.

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 Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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. (SCF with turkeypurge.com

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