Turkish gov’t detains some 60 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained dozens of people on Friday across Turkey as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 20 people on Friday during operations in 10 provinces as part of an İstanbul-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement. It was reported that the detentions came following the issuance of detention warrants by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 40 people over their alleged use of 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 coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The detainees reportedly include Zeynep Meral, wife of Rıza Nur Meral, the chairman of  the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON). TUSKON has been labeled by the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the businessmen’s structure of the Gülen movement. TUSKON was closed by the government in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Five police officers were also detained by police on Friday in a separate operation in central Eskişehir province over their alleged links to the movement, while police detained five more people, including a military officer, in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, on the same accusation.

On Friday, police also detained four people in the Aegean province of Manisa over their alleged use of ByLock. In northwestern Zonguldak province, police detained 13 people also over their suspected use of ByLock. Detentions came after the issuance of detention warrants by the Zonguldak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 14 people.

Separately, 17 people were detained on Friday in southern Mersin province based on detention warrants issued by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Officer for 21 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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 the coup attempt in July 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 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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