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

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

Police detained 33 people on Friday in six provinces over their alleged donations to a foundation that has been closed due to its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement following the issuance of warrants by the İstanbul-Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 51 people in an İstanbul-based investigation.

The detainees are accused of membership in the Gülen movement due to their alleged donations to a higher education foundation, named Türkiye Yüksek Tahsil Gençliği Öğrenim ve İhtisas Vakfı, which was closed down by a government decree in the aftermath of a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In an İzmir-based probe, police detained 14 people, including the nationalist Grand Union Party’s (BBP) former İzmir head, İsmail Gider, on Friday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The detentions came after warrants were issued by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 19 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 using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Also on Friday, six people were detained by police in Burdur province over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court arrested teachers Osman Özpınar, İbrahim Akbaş and Adnan Demirönal, who were abducted from Gabon, accusing them of “being a member and an executive of an armed terrorist organisation” and “international espionage.”

On April 10, the agents of Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) brought the three teachers to Turkey following their detention by Gabon police in Libreville at the request of the Turkish government. The three men, who were detained in Gabon on March 23, were taken to Turkey from Libreville by private jet and were interrogated by Turkish police.

Ahmet Ramiz Gülen, a nephew of US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, was sentenced by a Turkish court on Wednesday to 12 years in prison on charges of membership in the Gülen movement. In pretrial detention for 20 months in a Gaziantep prison, Ahmet Ramiz Gülen was ordered by the court to remain in prison while his verdict is appealed.

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 RecepTayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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 jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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