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

Some 50 people were detained by police across Turkey on Thursday as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency, 22 people were detained in five provinces on Thursday as part of a probe launched in the Black Sea province of Kastamonu, including businesspeople and former staffers of private lender Bank Asya, which was closed down by the Turkish government over its affiliation with the Gülen movement.

Separately, 20 people, including 16 active duty military officers, were detained in six provinces as part of a probe based in the central province of Eskisehir following the issuance of detention warrants by the Eskişehir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 26 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was also reported that four of the detainees are military officers who were dismissed by government decrees under an ongoing state of emergency.

In a separate operation, five people were detained by police in the central province of Kayseri on Thursday over their alleged use of the ByLock, Eagle and Kakao mobile phone messaging applications.

Turkish authorities believe that 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 the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Moreover, a former staffer of the shuttered Zaman daily based in the Mediterranean province of Antalya was also detained in Manisa by police over his alleged use of ByLock.

Another person was taken into custody in the northwestern province of Tekirdag on Thursday over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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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