Turkish gov’t investigates 612,347 people over ‘armed terror organization’ links in 2 years

The Turkish government has launched investigations into a total of 612,347 people across Turkey due to their alleged membership in “armed terrorist organizations” during the last two years, according to a series of messages posted by law professor and human rights activist Yaman Akdeniz.

Akdeniz, who shared the statistics he gathered on his personal Twitter account on Friday, said that in 2017 alone, Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into almost half a million people suspected of links to illegal armed organizations.

Akdeniz stated that statistics released by the Justice Ministry indicate that “investigations have been opened into 457,425 people alleged to be founders, executives or members of armed organizations as defined by Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) Article 314.”

“Only 65,308 cases launched according to this law have been dropped,” Akdeniz said, adding that more than 155,000 investigations were initiated in 2016 on the same basis, making the two-year total 612,347.

The figures show a dramatic rise over the six previous years. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of investigations only exceeded 50,000 once, in 2014.

Turkey was governed under a state of emergency for two years, starting shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Hundreds of thousands have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs under the state of emergency, which granted security officers enhanced powers. Many of those arrested have been charged with membership of the Gülen movement, while others have been accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, the government has been accused of using the state of emergency to target its critics and political opponents.

“‘The world doesn’t understand us.’ If you went around the entire world you wouldn’t find over 457,000 people investigated for terror links,” tweeted human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak.

“In just one year, if you take children out of the equation, you have opened investigations into almost 1 percent of the population. What exactly do you expect to be understood, and by whom?” Altıparmak continued. AKP officials have accused international critics of the recent crackdown of not understanding the unique threats Turkey faces from domestic and international enemies.

Further statistics reported by Akdeniz show that more than 20,000 investigations were launched in 2017 for insulting President Erdoğan, an infringement of Article 299 of the criminal code.

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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