Turkish gov’t detains 8 more lawyers, 173 others over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government has detained eight more lawyers in Ankara and 173 others, including military officers, across Turkey over suspected links to the Gülen movement, as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, eight lawyers were detained in Ankara following the issuance of detention warrants by the provincial chief public prosecutor’s office on Wednesday morning over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was also claimed that six of the lawyers were using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among the followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been fired or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government has prosecuted at least 1,525 lawyers, arrested 578 of them and put them in pre-trial detention while sentencing 99 attorneys since the coup bid. In addition, more than 4,400 judges and prosecutors have been investigated, with more than 2,400 put in pretrial detention so far.

Meanwhile, 41 people, who used to work for the now-closed Işık Publishing Co., part of Kaynak Holding, which was closed by a government decree issued during an ongoing state of emergency, were detained by police in four provinces in an İstanbul-based probe on Wednesday.

The detentions reportedly came following the issuance of warrants by the İstanbul/Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 60 people who were working for Işık Publishing. These people were accused of depositing money in their personal accounts in the now-closed private lender Bank Asya.

The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) had taken over management of Bank Asya and took control of 63 percent of its privileged shares, enough to name the board, in February 2015. New board members, a general manager and deputy general managers were immediately appointed by the TMSF. In the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the government closed down Bank Asya on the grounds that it was linked to the Gülen movement.

In a Diyarbakır-based probe, 53 on-duty military officers have been detained in 10 provinces across Turkey on Wednesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The detentions came in Ankara, Aydın, Konya, Eskişehir, Mardin, Batman, Osmaniye, Kütahya and Kayseri provinces following the warrants issued by Diyarbaır Chief Prosecutor’s Office for military personnel.

Police have detained 8 people in Keban district of northwestern Edirne province, when they were preparing to illegally cross into Greece. Among the suspects was an editor of  Zaman daily, once the most circulated daily in Turkey. Zaman was first seized on march 4, 2016 by the government and closed down by a government decree under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of the coup bid over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement. It was claimed that four of the detainees were accused of using ByLock.

In western İzmir province, the gendarmerie forces detained 16 people, including dismissed and on-duty military officers, in simultaneous morning raids as part of an ongoing investigation into the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Another 17 people were detained in southern Kahramanmaras province for using an alleged system for sequential search and crypto coding.

In northwestern Tekirdag province, police detained 15 people, who were among 40 people about whom were issued detention warrants by the provincial chief prosecutor’s office.

Another 14 people were detained in simultaneous operations based in seven-provinces, including capital Ankara and northern Samsun, for their alleged links to the movement.

Police have also rounded up 9 people in simultaneous operations in eastern Malatya and central Kırıkkale provinces while another two were detained in Samsun, a Black Sea region province.

On Tuesday six military personnel were also detained by the gendarmerie in Aydın, Gümüşhane, Antalya, İzmir, Ankara and Manisa provinces in an Aydın-based probe targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement. Five of the detainees are reportedly cadets dismissed from military schools in the wake of the coup attempt.

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 autocratic 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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