Retired Col. Burhanettin Cihangiroğlu, former head of the Gendarmerie’s criminal department and a defendant in a trial concerning the halting of Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks in 2014, was detained in Ankara on Friday.
Cihangiroğlu was reportedly taken into custody as part of an investigation into military officers who used landlines or pay telephones, which according to Turkish authorities is a sign of their membership in the Gülen movement.
As part of the investigation conducted by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Cihangiroğlu is accused of using landlines or pay telephones to communicate with followers of the movement around the time when the MİT trucks were stopped.
Prosecutors say Gülen followers in the military avoided using mobile phones for fear of being wiretapped.
In January 2014 a number of trucks that were found to belong to MİT were stopped by gendarmes in two separate incidents in the southern provinces of Hatay and Adana after prosecutors received tipoffs that they were carrying arms to radical Islamist rebels in Syria.
Although the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claimed the trucks were transporting humanitarian aid to the Turkmen community in Syria, opposition voices questioned why, if the operation was within the law, the government intervened to prevent the trucks from being searched.
Four former prosecutors and a former gendarmerie officer were jailed when a court ordered their arrest due to their role in the search of the trucks after government figures, including President Erdoğan, accused them of “treason and espionage.”
Cihangiroğlu was arrested on Nov. 30, 2015 as part of the investigation into the halting of the MİT trucks. He was released pending trial on June 7, 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 civil servants since July 15. 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)