Turkish gov’t detains dozens of teachers, sentences Gülen relative over links to Gülen movement

Şüheda Gülen

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

Turkish police teams detained 42 teachers out of the 53 for whom detention warrants were issued by the Elazığ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of an investigation into suspected members of the movement. The detentions took place in 23 provinces including Elazığ following simultaneous police raids.

The detainees are reportedly staff members who used to work for schools and prep schools that were closed down in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016 over their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, a couple was detained in Bursa province on Thursday over claimed links to the movement. Ömer G., who was dismissed from his state job by a government decree issued under an ongoing state of emergency, and his wife, Meryem G., were accused of assisting people whose family members have been jailed over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Meryem G. was also accused of using the ByLock mobile phone messaging app, claimed by the government to be a means of communication between members of the movement.

Also on Thursday noncommissioned officer Rıza Asal, a member of Naval Forces Commander Adm. Adnan Özbal’s security detail, was arrested by an İstanbul court for suspected links to the Gülen movement. Asal’s brother’s deposits of money in private lender Bank Asya and his employment by a company claimed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement were presented as evidence for his arrest.

Moreover, a court in Kocaeli province sentenced Şüheda Gülen, the daughter of a cousin of Fethullah Gülen who is in prison for seven years, six months due to his kinship to Gülen. However, the Kocaeli 4th High Criminal Court announced that it sentenced Şüheda Gülen – accused in the indictment of establishing and administering a terrorist group — for membership in an armed terrorist organisation. The court has also ruled for the continuation of her imprisonment.

The prosecutor has shown her accommodation in student dormitories during her university years as evidence of the accusations lodged against her. Şüheda Gülen has been jailed since July 24, 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 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, 2017, 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, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 12, 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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