Turkish gov’t detains at least 71 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained at least 71 people, mostly active duty military officers, across Turkey on Thursday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 34 people in İzmir province on Thursday following the issuance of detention warrants by the Chief Public Prosecutors’ Office for 53 people, mostly military personnel, over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The police launched a nationwide operation in order to apprehend these people, including active-duty soldiers. The police reportedly conducted operations in 24 Turkish provinces.

Meanwhile, 24 out of 45 people were detained as part of a probe by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutors’ Office over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application, while in Adana province six people were detained by police on Thursday due to suspected links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Thursday, gendarmerie units in Edirne province detained seven people near the Turkish-Greek border over alleged links to the Gülen movement and ByLock use. It was reported that the detainees are dismissed public servant M.M. (36); F.G.M. (34), who used to work as a secretary at a company affiliated with the Gülen movement; C.Y. (35), a dismissed teacher; H.Y and Y.Y. (35), clerks who worked at a courthouse in İstanbul’s Küçükçekmece district; M.D (25); and E.D. (53).

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among 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.

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 autocratic 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “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.”

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