Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 22 military officers over alleged Gülen links

Turkish government issued detention warrants for 22 military officers on Friday as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish prosecutors on Friday issued detention warrants for 22 active serving and former soldiers over their alleged links to the movement.

A statement from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in the capital Ankara said the warrants issued are aimed at personnel of the Turkish Air Forces, including six pilots who were dismissed by government decree under the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 16, 2016. The suspects are accused of communicating with the alleged members of the Gülen movement and so far, 8 of them have been detained in Ankara-based operations in 14 provinces across Turkey.

Separately, an İstanbul-based operation in 14 provinces across Turkey saw the detention of another 15 people on Friday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The detentions came after the provincial chief public prosecutor’s office issued warrants for 52 people for allegedly using ByLock mobile phone messaging application. The operations to detain other suspects are reportedly underway.

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.

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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