Turkish gov’t detains 7 top jurists over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained seven jurists in Ankara on Thursday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, eight people were taken into custody in Ankara on Thursday over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Among the detainees were seven members of the Higher Administrative Court and the Council of State. The detentions came following the issuance of warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over 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 using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since the controversial attempted coup in July 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed in early August 2017.

Meanwhile, in a Malatya-based investigation police on Thursday detained 15 military officers, including 13 on active duty, in Malatya, Erzurum, Eskişehir, Adana, Kahramanmaraş, Bolu, Ankara, Konya, İzmir, İstanbul and Kilis provinces over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Thursday, a court sentenced 47 military officers to life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The Ankara 13th High Criminal Court handed down aggravated life sentences to 27 officers, including a former major general and brigadier general, while 20 other military members were given life terms for violation of the constitutional order.

The court also gave 217 convicts jail terms ranging from 12 to 20 years for “providing support to violate the constitutional order.” They were all convicted for their activities at the 58th Artillery Brigade Command and Artillery and Missile School Command in Ankara during the coup bid. The court released 64 people, including 63 soldiers, a colonel and a civil servant.

Moreover, the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court also handed down aggravated life sentences to 18 military officers for their alleged roles in the murder of Turkish noncommissioned officer Ömer Halisdemir during the coup attempt. The officers were sentenced on charges of intentional killing and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. Thirteen of the sentences were subsequently reduced to life in prison from aggravated life at the discretion of the court.

Halisdemir was said to have shot the alleged pro-coup Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi in the head after the latter allegedly attempted to seize control of the Special Forces Command in Ankara. Pro-coup soldiers later reportedly killed Halisdemir.

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. 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. Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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