Turkish gov’t detains dozens of people over their 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.

At least 14 employees of public lender Ziraat Bank were detained in Ankara on Friday for their alleged links to the Gülen movement and use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Also, in Kayseri province on Friday, a woman identified as T.E. was detained by police over her alleged use of ByLock while another woman, Elif G. (34), was detained on Friday in her father’s house in a village in Çanakkale province over her alleged links to the movement.

Elif G.’s husband, Selim G., was reportedly arrested two years ago and put behind bars over his alleged links to the movement. Elif G. was also arrested by a local court on Friday.

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 allegedly using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, police also detained eight people, including seven active duty military personnel, on Friday in Hatay province over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that the operation remained ongoing to apprehend one more person on the same charges.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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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