Turkish gov’t detains more than 100 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained more than 100 people across Turkey on Tuesday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In a Konya-based probe launched by the provincial chief public prosecutor’s office on May 3, police detained six more military officers on Tuesday during operations conducted in 34 provinces countrywide over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, bringing the total number of detainees in the case to 51. The Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for 70 people over their alleged links to the movement on May 3.

In the central Turkish province of Kayseri, two people were detained for allegedly using ByLock and Eagle mobile phone messaging applications.

Also on Tuesday, police detained seven people in Antalya, İzmir and Gaziantep provinces in a Denizli-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement over their suspected use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. The detentions came following the issuance of warrants by the Denizli Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 10 people.

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.

Police also detained 14 military officers on Tuesday during operations conducted in nine Turkish provinces over their alleged links to the Gülen movement in a Samsun-based probe.

In an Iğdır-based investigation, 15 military personnel were detained by police on Tuesday in İstanbul, Ankara, Tekirdağ, Çorum, Giresun, Bayburt, Kayseri, Adana, Malatya, Balıkesir, Sakarya, Manisa, Isparta, Erzincan, Erzurum and northern Cyrpus over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In the eastern Tunceli, nine military officers, including two dismissed officers, were detained on Tuesday over alleged Gülen links. Separately, in eastern Erzican province, six people, including four women were detained on Tuesday over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Thirty-six people were detained on Tuesday in the central province of Afyonkarahisar and in southeastern Turkey, police launched an operation from Batman in 12 provinces and detained 18 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Ten on-duty military officers and a police officer were also detained during an operation carried out simultaneously in 14 provinces.

Meanwhile, İzmir gendarmerie units detained five people on Tuesday on the Çakmaklı coastline of İzmir’s Aliağa district over their alleged links to the Gülen movement and their claimed use of ByLock as they were reportedly trying to flee from Turkey to Greece.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to the witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement. Many tried to escape Turkey by illegal means as the government had cancelled their passports like thousands of others. On Feb 13, 2018 at least three people died and five others went missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape the post-coup crackdown in Turkey.

Greece’s asylum service says more than 1,800 Turkish citizens requested sanctuary in 2017, a tenfold increase over the previous year. This puts Greece in second place behind Germany as an EU destination of choice for Turks believed to be fleeing the sweeping measures following the coup bid.

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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