Turkish gov’t detains 998 people in a week, issues detention warrants for 118 on Monday over Gülen links

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on Monday that 998 people have been detained in one week over the alleged links to the Gülen movement as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged followers of the movement.

Meanwhile, detention warrants were issued for 47 businessmen in Mersin province on Monday as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement by the Mersin Chief Prosecutor’s Office. It was reported that 29 of the 47 businessmen were detained during police operations while 18 are still at large.

Listed as ‘evidence’ against the businessmen was increasing their deposits in Bank Asya, which was personally targeted by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and later seized by the government in 2015; becoming members of Gülen movement affiliated associations, which were closed by the government following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016; and while travelling abroad using the same hotel as people linked with the Gülen movement.

Also in a Çanakkale-based investigation, 11 people including non-commissioned officers from Turkish air forces were detained in Çanakkale, Ankara, Aksaray, Muş, Kastamonu, Konya, Batman and İzmir provinces on Monday. Detentions came after the detention warrants issued by Çanakkale Chief Prosecutor’s Office for 15 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Detention warrants were also issued for 56 people in İstanbul and Elazığ provinces on Monday on accusations that they use a smart phone messaging application known as ByLock. It was reported the detention warrants were issued for 36 people by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office as part of the investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement.

In a similar development, 20 were detained in Elazığ, Diyarbakır, Sivas and İstanbul provinces as part of an investigation into the movement carried out by the Elazığ Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Moreover, a court in İstanbul sentenced 6 members of the military to life in prison in a trial of soldiers who attacked Turkey’s fixed-line operator Türk Telekom building in İstanbul’s Gayrettepe neighborhood during a failed coup last year.

The İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court gave aggravated life sentences to former Col. Nurullah Zeki Atmaca and Lt. Col. Birol Keskinkılıç and life sentences to former Lt. Col. Cem Doygun, noncommissioned officers Muhammet Mustafa Çelik and Serdar Uzel, and Spc. Sgt. Murat Karataş for attempting to destroy the constitutional order. Noncommissioned officer Uğur Alpay and privates İzzet Uğur Alp, Emre Aslan, Sinan Aslan, Fatih Özbek, Cengiz Taşhan and Kadir Kars were acquitted.

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

The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled on last month that the ByLock smart phone application is to be considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organization following Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül’s remarks on ByLock being strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

A recent legal opinion published in London last month found that tens of thousands of Turkish citizens detained or dismissed from their jobs on the basis of downloading ByLock have had their human rights violated.

The Guardian reported on a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Erdoğan and conducted by a pair of 2 Bedford Row attorneys which argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app was arbitrary and illegal.

According to the report by Guardian legal affairs correspondent Owen Bowcott, the legal opinion was commissioned by a pro-Gülen organization based in Europe. The two experienced British barristers, William Clegg QC and Simon Baker, drafted the opinion.

“The evidence that the [ByLock] app was used exclusively by those who were members or supporters of the Gülen movement [is] utterly unconvincing and unsupported by any evidence,” the two barristers said, according to the Guardian.

“There is a great deal of evidence … which demonstrates that the app was widely available and used in many different countries, some of which had no links to Turkey.”

The detention of people on this basis is “arbitrary and in breach of article 5” of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees the right to liberty, the report says.

The report examines transcripts of recent trials of Gülen followers in Turkey as well as Turkish intelligence reports on ByLock. It concludes that the cases presented so far violate the ECHR, to which Turkey is a party.

Most recently, Dutch cyber security firm Fox-IT, known for providing cyber security solutions to governments, said on Sept. 13 that it had debunked a report by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on the ByLock smartphone application as it discovered inconsistencies and manipulations.

In a statement on it website, Fox-IT said the quality of the MİT report on ByLock is very low, especially when weighed against the legal consequences of the report, which is the basis of detention for 75,000 Turkish citizens, mainly sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

President Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement following a Dec.17-25, 2013 corruption investigation that included ministers and Erdoğan’s family. It turned into a witch-hunt following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President 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’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. Turkish government has also suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants after the coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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