Turkish gov’t detains more than 65 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government detained more than 65 people, including active duty military officers and women, across Turkey on Thursday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In central Yozgat province, police detained 23 active duty military officers on Thursday following the issuance of detention warrants by the province’s chief public prosecutor’s office for 26 people for their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Thursday 28 people, including active duty military officers, were detained as part of a Gaziantep-based investigation in 13 provinces and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC).

In another operation, counterterrorism police in central Kayseri province detained five people for allegedly using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. Separately, police detained 13 people, including seven women from Çorum, Eskişehir and four more provinces across Turkey for allegedly using ByLock.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among suspected 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.

Meanwhile, a man was given a prison sentence of nine years, five months over suspected membership in the Gülen movement, with the only evidence the payment of taxes in 2014 via the now-defunct Bank Asya. “During the police search in the house of the suspect, a tax slip dated 06.01.2014, numbered [………], belonging to […….], paid through Bank Asya’s Sefaköy branch, was seized,” the indictment said.

The government’s post-coup crackdown against the movement has included people who studied at Gülen movement-affiliated schools and others who had had accounts at Bank Asya and who conducted banking transactions at Bank Asya.

Islamic lender Bank Asya, which was founded by businessman close to the Gülen movement in 1996, was confiscated by the Turkish government in May 2016 and was completely closed down on July 22, 2016. Before the confiscation, Bank Asya was put under political and economic pressure by the government asking its loyal followers to withdraw their funds from the “traitor’s bank.”

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 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 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, 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, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 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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