Turkish gov’t detains 85 active duty military members over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained 85 active duty military personnel on Friday in 16 provinces in an Ankara-based investigation, part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The detentions came following the issuance of detention warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 110 members of the Turkish Air Forces Command on Friday over their alleged links to the movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the soldiers include three colonels, two lieutenant colonels, six squadron leaders, three captains, 18 first lieutenants, a second lieutenant and 77 sergeants. Five of the suspects are pilots.

Police also detained 10 people in Elazığ province on Friday over alleged links to the Gülen movement, while they detained 14 people in seven provinces in an İzmir-based investigation targeting alleged members of the movement.

The detainees include dismissed teachers, students, businessmen and shopkeepers who are accused of taking part in movement civil society organizations and allegedly used 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 allegedly using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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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