Turkish gov’t detains 72 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained 72 people across on Tuesday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In a Konya-based investigation the chief public prosecutor’s office issued detention warrants for 56 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Police detained 30 people during raids in 26 provinces.

Police also detained 13 people over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application in İstanbul-based operations in 10 provinces. The detentions came following the issuance of 26 detention warrants by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

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.

Also on Tuesday, Turkish police detained six people, including military officers, in seven provinces in a Kahramanmaraş-based investigation targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 12 former and current officers from Gendarmerie Command, including seven on active duty, on Tuesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that all the suspects including six lieutenants and six noncommissioned officers were detained.

Following the issuance of detention warrants by Antalya Chief Prosecutor’s Office for 11 people, police detained 10 people on Tuesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that 6 of the detainees used to be executives and members of a now-closed civil society organization called “Gökkuşağı.”

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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