Turkish gov’t detains 63 people over alleged match-making among followers of Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained 63 people in 36 provinces across Turkey on Saturday over suspected match-making activities among alleged followers of the Gülen movement as part of the government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting people believed to be members of the movement.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Saturday issued detention warrants for 103 people for allegedly organizing marriages between followers of the Gülen movement, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported. According to the report, 63 of the 103 being sought have been detained by police in operations across 36 provinces, while 40 are still at large.

Also on Saturday, 15 active duty military officers and noncommissioned officers were detained by police in Manisa, İzmir, Ankara, Balıkesir, Aydın, Muş, Batman, Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Kocaeli and Muğla provinces in a Manisa-based probe into the Gülen movement.

In another investigation in Manisa province into alleged members of the Gülen movement, police detained four people in Manisa and Konya provinces over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

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 supposedly using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In another operation in İstanbul, Esmaül Hüsna Öksüz, niece of Adil Öksüz, who is accused by the Islamist Turkish government of being the mastermind of the failed coup, was detained while trying to send a package to the US by courier. Öksüz was referred to court and put in pretrial detention.

Alper Cömertoğlu and his wife Mine Cömertoğlu.

Meanwhile, two co-owners of the Antalya-based Delphin hotels have been put in pretrial detention as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement. Turkish media reported on Friday that Alper Cömertoğlu and his wife, Mine Cömertoğlu, were arrested primarily on accusations of membership in the movement.

According to the media, Alper Cömertoğlu was a board member of the now-closed Antalya Entrepreneurial Businessmen’s Association (AGİD). He spent 13 days in police custody on similar charges in 2016.

The other two co-owners, identified as Ufuk Cömertoğlu and Egemen Cömertoğlu, were briefly detained before being released under judicial control while awaiting trial.

The Delphin hotels consist of five five-star properties in the resort province of Antalya. More than 1,000 companies with a total value of $12 billion in assets have been seized and then transferred to Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) since July 15, 2016.

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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