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

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

The Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 59 people on Tuesday over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Police detained 30 people in Konya, İstanbul, Ankara, Muş and Elazığ provinces following the issuance of the warrants. It was stated that the reason for detentions was these people’s alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

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 a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Police detained 15 people, mostly active duty or dismissed military officers and military cadets, in 13 provinces on Tuesday after detention warrants were issued by the Zonguldak Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 21 people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, at least 16 of whom are military personnel.

Also in a Kırşehir-based probe on Tuesday, five teachers were detained by police in five provinces across Turkey over their alleged links to the movement.

Meanwhile, the Ufuk-Sen health workers’ union’s local representative in Kırşehir was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Monday due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. Ufuk-Sen was earlier closed down by the Turkish government under the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt.

A medical worker and also the union’s local representative in Kırşehir, identified only by the initials M.S., said he was being tried over union-related activities and asked for his release. In pretrial detention for some time, M.S. was convicted of membership in an alleged “armed terror group” and was handed down the 12-years sentence.

Also on Tuesday, İstanbul’s 23rd High Criminal Court gave aggravated life sentences to five military officers and life sentences to 17 military officers over their alleged participation in the military 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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