Turkish gov’t detains at least 45 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained at least 45 people across Turkey on Wednesday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 31 people on Wednesday in Diyarbakır, Van, Aydın, Batman, Kayseri, Eskişehir, İstanbul, Tekirdağ, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya and Balıkesir provinces in an İzmir-based investigation into the Gülen movement. The detentions came following the issuance of warrants by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for these people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Wednesday, following detention warrants issued by the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, police detained eight people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement in Antalya province.

Meanwhile, four people were detained by border security in Edirne province on Wednesday as they allegedly were trying to flee to Greece from the indiscriminate persecution by the Turkish government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeting alleged members of the movement.

The detainees were reportedly identified as Turgut S., Ahmet Yasir K., dismissed nurse Öznur S. and Onur B., a private in Turkish army. It was also reported that the detainees were wanted 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 using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Moreover, according to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday, Adil Öksüz, the Turkish government’s most wanted coup suspect who has been on the run for almost two years, stayed at a small apartment in Berlin earlier this year.

The report claimed that some witnesses told Anadolu that Öksüz, a theology lecturer accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Ali A., a Berlin-based Turkish businessman who allegedly provided financial support to the Gülen movement, rented a flat in Berlin’s Neukoelln district for Öksüz.

Turkish officials have repeatedly appealed to the German government to arrest and extradite Öksüz after receiving dozens of alleged tips claiming that he was hiding in Germany. Last November, all police departments were asked to inform the Federal Criminal Police Office on any findings that could help them identify the whereabouts of Öksüz.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu on Wednesday called on Germany to extradite alleged members of the Gülen movement to Turkey. In a televised interview to pro-government news channel Habertürk, Çavuşoğlu said, “If Germany does not return Adil Öksüz to us, then it will be in the same position as the US, which has not extradited the FETÖ leader.”

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.

“There is some activity in the US [over the extradition of Fethullah Gülen], but whether it is Germany or other countries, they must all return these traitors who plotted a coup in Turkey; these people must face justice.”

Çavuşoğlu also said they had officially contacted German authorities regarding Öksüz and added: “We of course have an agreement with Germany. This person is a putschist, and Germany is very well aware of it. Thus, if he is caught, then the extradition process will begin.”

Çavuşoğlu also claimed on Wednesday that Germany had issued a detention warrant for Öksüz.

However, German authorities said on Wednesday they had no new information about Öksüz’s whereabouts. Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr said the issue of Öksüz has been a constant theme on the agenda of bilateral talks. “But I cannot safely tell you at the moment if there’s a concrete new development on this,” she said.

Meanwhile, German Interior Ministry’s spokesperson Eleonore Petermann said she had no new information on the matter.

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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