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

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

Police detained 25 people, including 21 police officers, in Bitlis province on Tuesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement following the issuance of detention warrants by the Bitlis Chief Public Prosecutor’s office.

Three former police directors, two of whom were dismissed by government decree under an ongoing state of emergency and one of them retired, were detained by police on Tuesday in Sivas and İzmir provinces in a Sivas-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, the Kırşehir High Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced teacher Hakan Taş, who was dismissed from his job by a government decree issued under the state of emergency, to 18 years in prison over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Taş was reportedly accused of working for university preparation courses and study centres that were closed by the government over their alleged affiliation with the movement. He was also accused of depositing money into his account at private lender Bank Asya, which was shut down by the government on the same accusation. The court based its verdict on allegations that Taş was a user of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application  and that he took part in the educational and charity activities of the Gülen movement.

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.

Also on Tuesday, police detained three people — Abdulsamet S. and his wife Esin S. — in Adana province and Güngör G. in İstanbul over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Moreover, 26 military officers, including generals were sentenced to aggravated life on Tuesday for their alleged involvement in a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

İstanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court convicted 12 former military personnel on charges of violating the constitution. Separately, southeastern Gaziantep’s 10th High Criminal Court sentenced 14 military officers to aggravated life after convicting them of violating the constitutional order during incidents at a special forces operation base in the province’s Silopi district.

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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