Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 149 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government on Friday issued detention warrants for 149 people, mostly military officers, as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 50 suspects over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to a statement from the prosecutor’s office, those being sought were allegedly users of the ByLock mobile phone messaging app. Twenty-seven people, including teachers and lawyers, were reportedly detained during police operations in eight Turkish provinces.

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 using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Also in İzmir province, the provincial chief public prosecutor’s office issued detention warrants for 23 people on Friday over their alleged use of ByLock. Police reportedly detained 13 people after the issuance of the warrants.

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday also issued detention warrants for 46 military officers in 12 provinces across Turkey, including 32 active duty officers in the Turkish Air Forces Command, over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Police detained 19 people, including on-duty military officers, on Friday in 10 provinces following the issuance of detention warrants by the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutors Office for 30 people over their alleged affiliation with the movement.

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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