Turkish gov’t detains 777 people over links to Gülen movement in past week

The Turkish government has detained a total of 777 people over the past week (June 25-July 2) as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the Turkish Interior Ministry on Monday.

Turkish police took 15,190 people into custody over alleged links to the movement in the first half of 2018.

On Monday, three out of 13 people — 11 active duty military officers, a contract private and a civilian — for whom detention warrants were issued by Tokat Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, were detained.

It was also reported that the number of active duty military officers who were detained as part of a Balıkesir-based investigation into alleged members of the Gülen movement has increased to 22.

An operation had been launched on June 27 to detain 22 military officers, including two majors, two captains and 16 lieutenants in Balıkesir, İstanbul, İzmir, Çanakkale, Tekirdağ, Edirne, Kocaeli, Afyonkarahisar, Mersin, Ankara, Konya, Şırnak, Gaziantep provinces and in the northern Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court handed down three aggravated life sentences to each of two defendants after their conviction of violating the constitution and the first degree murder of two people during the night of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The defendants had invaded the Borsa İstanbul stock exchange building that evening and were involved in the murder of Mehmet Şevket Uzun and Fatih Satır. Fifteen defendants were present at the hearing, seven of whom were in pretrial detention and six previously released. One defendant is still at large.

The court also decided to release five of the jailed defendants, ruling that there was no need to punish them further, which, according to the judge, did not constitute an acquittal. “You weren’t involved in the act, but it was an important criterion that you also didn’t avoid the act. I wish you had resisted and stopped what happened,” the presiding judge, Utku Ercan, told the defendants.

He also commemorated the martyrs and wounded from the night of July 15, 2016, saying this case was the last one they had to hear regarding the coup attempt and that the court has brought the putschists to justice.

According to the Justice Ministry, in the trials related to the coup attempt 636 suspects received aggravated life sentences, while 888 were handed life sentences and 653 were given jail sentences varying from one year, two months to 20 years.

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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