Turkish gov’t detains hundreds of people, mostly military officers over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has detained some hundreds of people, including over 300 military officers across Turkey on last two days as part of the government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In İstanbul-based probe, police have detained 240 out of 360 military officers on Thursday. The detentions came following the warrants issued by İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office for 360 military officers. Police have launched simultaneous operations in 49 provinces and detained 172 suspects on Wednesday. It was reported that police detained 68 more military officers on Thursday.

The judicial sources told to state-run Anadolu news agency that the warrants focused mainly on military personnel, some of them fired following a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. It was also said that the majority, 216, of them are active-duty military officers.

Among the active-duty and fired military officers detained are seven colonels, two lieutenants, 22 majors, 25 captains, 30 military students, and many lower-ranking officers. The official claimed that 27 of the military officers were allegedly senior figures of the Gülen movement who are responsible for coordinating the alleged members of the Gülen movement within the armed forces.

Police have also detained 68 people, mostly military officers, who were previously dismissed by government decrees under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016, from 11 provinces, on Thursday as part of an investigation based in the central Anatolian city of Eskisehir targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Also on Thursday, at least 115 people, including other former military officers, were detained over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Among the detainees were 10 former members of the Council of State who were detained in Ankara province after Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued detentions warrants for 13 people.

In the northern Çorum province, 6 people were detained over their alleged use of mobile phone messaging application ByLock on Thursday.

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 the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In a separate operation in the southwest province of Antalya, police also detained 18 people for their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Another 8 people, including a lawyer, were taken into custody in Ceyhan in the southern province of Adana in an ongoing investigation into the alleged members of the Gülen movement on Thursday. They are accused of sharing pro-Gülen movement messages on social media, as prosecutors in Ceyhan district issued detention warrants for 16 people.

Police have also lunched a simultaneous raids in 9 provinces and detained 10 suspects as part of a probe launched in the western province of Manisa targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement. Two alleged members of the movement were also detained in a separate raid in Manisa province on Thursday. Some of the detainees are alleged to use the ByLock app.

In a Bursa-based investigation 13 people were detained by police in four provinces over their alleged use of ByLock on Thursday. It was reported that there are teachers, shopkeepers and private sector workers among the detainees.

Also on Friday, Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for 23 teachers over their alleged use of ByLock. It was reported that the teachers used to work for the private schools which were closed by government decrees under the rule of emergency over their alleged affiliation to the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, 20 people were convicted and sentenced to jail on Thursday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Among the 20 were a doctor, a businessman, and security staff.

The High Criminal Court in the northern Ardahan province handed down 9 years each to a former police chief and a police officer for alleged membership to the Gülen movement. They were also convicted of allegedly using ByLock.

In the central Kırıkkale province, a high criminal court sentenced a former police officer to over 7 years in prison for his alleged use of ByLock. The 2nd High Criminal Court in the province has also given nearly 8 years in prison to a former doctor and a businessman for alleged membership to the movement and using ByLock.

In the southern Adana province, a man was sentenced to over 6 years for being an alleged member the Gülen movement on Thursday.

In the northeastern province of Kars, a high criminal court gave a life sentence to former Maj. Deniz Yiğitbaş for allegedly attempting to overthrow the constitutional order on July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

In the central Anatolian province of Kırıkkale, a high criminal court gave sentences from more than a year to over 8 years in prison to 12 people over their alleged memberships to the Gülen movement on Thursday. It was reported that the most of the 12 people are former jurists and prison staff.

Moreover, it was reported that a total of 5,280 people will stand trial in December across Turkey to face charges over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Almost 1,710 defendants will appear before the court in 32 different cases in 13 provinces for their alleged links to the movement.

Nearly 3,570 defendants in seven provinces will stand trial in 30 cases for their alleged roles in the controversial coup attempt; the accusations include being a member of an “armed terrorist organization”, attempting to overthrow Turkish Republic and the constitutional order, and committing murder on the night of July 15, 2016.

The cases include three major trials relating to last year’s attempted coup — the Bosphorus Bridge case, the Akıncı Air Base trial, and the Presidential Palace/TRT case.

İstanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge, which was renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge, was seized by soldiers on the coup night and became a focus for those resisting the putschists in İstanbul. At least 34 people were gunned down on the bridge before the coup involved troops surrendered as the coup bid crumbled. The incident has led to 143 soldiers standing trial.

At Akıncı, an air base to the north of the capital Ankara — renamed Murted after the defeated coup — coup plotters had established a command center to coordinate attacks, including fighter jets that attacked the parliament and Presidential Palace. Almost 221 defendants will stand trial for their roles at Akıncı Air Base.

Some of the most senior plotters are said to have been at the base, and it was also where Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was held hostage. This trial has seen 486 defendants, mostly former military officers, face allegations that they orchestrated the coup.

The palace case involving 534 defendants and relates to attacks on the Presidential Palace and the offices of state broadcaster TRT in Ankara on the night of the coup.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempton July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s 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 civil servants since July 15, 2016. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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