Turkish gov’t detains more than 40 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government has detained more than 40 people, including six noncommissioned officers and a police chief, as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police detained 33 people during raids on 112 locations in 15 provinces across Turkey on Tuesday in a İstanbul-based investigation following the issuance of detention warrants by the İstabul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 38 people over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. It was reported that there are police chiefs, teachers, dentists and tax auditors among the detainees.

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 controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

On Monday, following the issuance of detention warrants by the Malatya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, police detained seven people, including six noncommissioned military officers, during raids in Malatya, Ankara, İstanbul, İzmir, Balıkesir, Erzurum, Sivas, Eskişehir and Bolu provinces.

Atilla Eser

Meanwhile, former police chief Atilla Eser, who was dismissed by a government decree during a now-ended state of emergency, was detained by police at a shopping mall in the Keçiören district of Ankara over his alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was claimed that both Eser and his wife, Ayşe Eser, used to use ByLock.

Also on Monday, an English-language teacher identified by his initials S.B. was intercepted in a restricted military area near Turkey’s Greek border in Edirne province, media reported.

S.B. used to work at a private school that was closed down over its affiliation with the Gülen movement in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016. The teacher was reportedly trying to sneak into Greece to escape persecution in Turkey.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of the coup bid. Many tried to illegally flee Turkey as the government had cancelled their passports.

On July 19, a woman and her three children died after a boat carrying a group of Turkish asylum seekers attempting to escape the post-coup crackdown in Turkey capsized in the Evros River.

A total of 17,085 people were detained over alleged links to the movement by the end of July in 2018.

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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