Turkish gov’t detains dozens of military personnel over alleged links to Gülen movement

Arrested officer

Turkish government has detained at least 109 people, mostly military officers, across Turkey as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement on Tuesday.

Turkish police have detained more than 30 on-duty military officers for alleged links to the Gülen movement during an operation based out of southeastern Siirt province on Tuesday. It was reported that the police operation was carried out across 20 provinces. The 31 suspects, which included four majors, two lieutenants, a first lieutenant, 15 sergeants and 7 specialized privates, were detained.

Later in the day, 56 Turkish soldiers accused of being member of the Gülen movement in 22 provinces and in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as part of the investigation carried out by the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office. It was reported that 50 of them were on-duty military personnel including non-commissioned officers. It was said that the detention warrants were issued following the review of the mobile phone messaging application ByLock records.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the 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 the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Another 16 on-duty soldiers — including officers, non-commissioned officers and specialized sergeants – were detained in nine provinces, as part of an investigation carried out by Erzincan Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The suspects were also accused of being alleged members of the Gülen movement.

As many as 27 alleged followers of The Gülen movement were also detained across Turkey in four different probes; many of those were allegedly using the ByLock app.

Meanwhile, police have also detained at least 9 people in an Aksaray-based investigation as part of its witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement on Tuesday. Police have detained 8 people in simultaneous raids early Tuesday in the Aksaray, Denizli, and Kocaeli provinces following detention warrants issued for 13 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that a lawyer and a pharmacist were among the detainees.

Separately, an on-duty lieutenant in the western Balıkesir province was detained under a detention warrant over his suspected phone calls with the alleged members of the Gülen movement. The governor’s office has said in a statement that the military officer had been contacted “consecutively” by public telephones.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Tuesday. “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.”

Moreover, 2 former military officers were given aggravated life sentences in Denizli province on Tuesday for allegedly violating the Constitution during the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The 2nd High Criminal Court in Denizli province convicted former Brig. Gen. Kamil Ozhan Özbakır and ex-Col. Erol Akman, who were already in jail pending trial, for allegedly trying to overthrow the constitutional order through violence as part of the controversial coup attempt.

The court also handed down life sentences to four other former soldiers, including Ziver İnci, Oğuz Ay, Muhammet Ekinci and Avşin Yapar for the same charge. In the case involving 64 defendants, 40 were jailed pending trial, and former soldier Tolga Kılınçaslan was sentenced to one year and eight months in jail. The remaining 59 were released.

Separately, in Kayseri province, four people were given jail terms ranging from 3 to 7,5 years over their alleged links to the Gülen movement on Tuesday.

On Monday, a court in the southern province of Adana sent three alleged members of the Gülen movement to jail for a period ranging between 6 and 7 years.

In the northwestern province of Kocaeli, a court sentenced former police officer Fırat Özserdar to 7 years and 6 months in prison for allegedly being a member of the Gülen movement. Another court in the same province handed down 6 years’ jail time to engineer Murat Koyun, who was already in jail pending trial over his alleged links to the movement. Koyun denied all the charges including using mobile phone messaging application ByLock.

Also a court in the Black Sea province of Rize has sentenced 8 police officers to more than 7 years in prison while another person was given 3 years and 9 months’ jail time over their alleged Gülen movement links.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. 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.

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