Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 84 people over their alleged use of ByLock

Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants on Tuesday for 84 people over their suspected use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging app as part of its post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

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

Police detained 27 people in 17 provinces across Turkey following the issuance of detention warrants for 69 people over their alleged ByLock use in two separate investigations.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 43 people, while the İstanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 26 people for their claimed ByLock use.

Also on Tuesday, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 15 teachers who were dismissed from their jobs by a government decree under a now-ended state of emergency over their alleged use of ByLock. Police detained 12 teachers during operations in Ankara, Bursa, Isparta and Çanakkale provinces.

Ankara prosecutors also issued detention warrants for 15 noncommissioned officers on Tuesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, 14 of whom were detained in operations in seven Turkish provinces. Five of the officers are assigned to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), and 10 were former employees of the agency.

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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