Turkish gov’t detains some 170 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish police detained some 170 people during operations across Turkey on Friday as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 100 people including purged police officers and executives of the Aksiyon-İş union on Friday over their alleged links to the movement. Police detained 38 people in Ankara due to affiliation with Aksiyon-İş, which was closed by a government decree issued under emergency rule. Ankara police also took 24 police officers into custody over their alleged links to the movement on the same day.

Also on Friday, out of the total, 12 people, including eight active duty and former military officers, were detained during police operations in 15 provinces across Turkey. According to the Van Police Department, simultaneous operations were carried out in Van, Isparta, Bitlis, Ankara, Manisa, İzmir, Antalya, Tokat, Balıkesir, Bingöl, Konya, Kocaeli, Kastamonu, Hakkari and Şırnak provinces.

Ten people were detained in the Mediterranean provinces of Adana and Mersin and the northwestern provinces of İstanbul and Balıkesir on Friday on the same charges. Police also took into custody 25 employees of Işık Publishing over alleged Gülen movement affiliation.

A police source told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency that İstanbul police also launched simultaneous operations to detain 55 people in 13 provinces, including İstanbul. So far, 25 have been taken into custody.

Seven people, including a dismissed civil servant, were detained in Samsun, Kırıkkale and Ordu provinces, Samsun police said. The detainees were accused of working for allegedly Gülen movement-affiliated firms and for using the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Turkish authorities believe that 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 failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In an Afyonkarahisar-based probe, police detained 35 military members and military academy cadets in 17 provinces on Friday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

One more person was detained in the central province of Eskişehir. During a search of suspect Yılmaz Y.’s home, police seized numerous books by US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen as criminal evidence. Additionally, six people were detained in central Kayseri province on Friday.

Also an Adana woman, identified as S.U., was detained after a notary public she visited has reported her to police on Friday. It was reported that S.U. stopped by a notary public’s office in Adana’s central district of Çukurova where she was supposed to give confirmation for notarial transactions. The notary officials noticed that her name was recorded at the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) as a suspected member of the Gülen movement. Police raided the notary and rounded up S.U.

The Turkish Interior Ministry announced on March 19 that 537 people have been detained in the past week due to alleged links to the Gülen movement.

1,800 MILITARY OFFICERS DISMISSED, 1,600 MILITARY OFFICERS DETAINED

Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli announced that approximately 1,800 military personnel have been suspended even though they showed remorse over their alleged ties to the Gülen movement.

“Some 1,800 people who gave statements to prosecutors as ‘confessors’ have been suspended. If they really want to benefit from the remorse law, they should do what is required. They should honestly reveal what they know in order to uncover the encrypted elements of this organization. According to our legislation, they can only take advantage of the remorse law in this way,” Canikli said on Thursday.

The Anadolu news agency also reported on Friday that the Turkish government has detained more than 1,600 active duty military officers and that Turkish courts have arrested over 500 of them since Jan .1, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Moreover, a court in southern Turkey on Friday handed down aggravated life sentences to eight former Turkish military officers over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Mersin’s 7th High Criminal Court convicted the military officers of allegedly attempting to violate the constitutional order on the night of the controversial coup attempt.

Among the convicts were Cdre. Nejat Atilla Demirhan, then-commander of Mediterranean region, and Col. Tayfun Ergi. The same court also gave jail terms ranging from seven-and-a-half-years to 15 years for 13 convicts. The convicts, including former police personnel, were charged for aiding the coup attempt and being members of the Gülen movement.

APPROXIMATELY 600 PEOPLE SENTENCED TO LIFE TERMS

Moreover, Anadolu reported on Friday that nearly 600 suspects allegedly linked to the Gülen movement have been given life sentences across Turkey since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to the report Turkish courts have rendered verdicts in 106 cases out of 283 linked to the coup bid and filed since July 2016. Out of the 805 suspects charged, 592 were convicted and given life sentences as part of these 106 cases. Among them were 22 former generals, 166 officers, 31 petty officers, a sergeant, 17 military cadets and four engineers who were given aggravated life sentences.

Six other former generals, 109 officers, 46 petty officers, 51 special sergeants, 50 military cadets and five policemen were also given life imprisonment. Eighteen other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for alleged involvement in the killing of Sgt. Ömer Halisdemir.

Out of these 106 cases, six were concluded one year after the coup attempt. But after the court process was accelerated, 100 cases have been concluded within the last eight months. Moreover, 339 defendants were also sent to jail for terms ranging from one year, two months to 20 years.

Turkish prosecutors were continuing to seek life sentences for more suspects. In the Polatlı district of Ankara, prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for 264 defendants for involvement in incidents at the 58th Artillery Regiment Command during the coup bid.

In central Malatya province, life terms were also being sought for 65 defendants, including Adem Huduti, the 2nd army commander. Life terms were asked for 12 out of the total 90 suspects said to be involved in the attempt to occupy the İstanbul Governor’s Office during July 2016 coup attempt.

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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on March 15, 2018 that at least 402,000 people have been the subject of legal proceedings initiated by the Turkish government over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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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