Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 99 people over ByLock app use

Detention warrants were issued for 99 people in Ankara and Isparta provinces on Tuesday on accusations that they use a smart phone application known as ByLock.

The warrants were issued for 59 people in 13 provinces by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office in an investigation as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Detention warrants were also issued for 40 people by the Isparta Chief Prosecutor’s Office as part of the investigation into the movement. Police detained 31, while nine people still remain at large.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the faith-based Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and housemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

In a similar development, nine teachers who had accounts at Bank Asya, which was seized by the government last year, were detained in the Bodrum district of Muğla province on Tuesday as part of the witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.

Also in a Çanakkale-based probe, 25 people were detained by police on Tuesday in Çanakkale, İzmir and Bursa over their alleged links to Gülen movement.

SITE OFFERS BYLOCK USE QUERY IN RETURN FOR 3 DOLLARS

Meanwhile, a website called “ByLeak.com” offers to check for people to determine whether they are listed as users of a smart phone application called ByLock in return for three dollars, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the website claims it has a list of 110,787 ByLock users and said the list was obtained from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

While no information was shared as to how the website accessed the lists from intelligence, it was claimed on the website that it is not illegal to make a query about ByLock use.

A recent legal opinion published in London found that tens of thousands of Turkish citizens detained or dismissed from their jobs on the basis of downloading ByLock have had their human rights violated.

According to a report in The Guardian on Monday, a study commissioned by opponents of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and conducted by a pair of 2 Bedford Row attorneys, argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app is arbitrary and illegal.

According to the report by Guardian legal affairs correspondent Owen Bowcott, the legal opinion was commissioned by a pro-Gülen organization based in Europe. The two experienced British barristers, William Clegg QC and Simon Baker, drafted the opinion.

“The evidence that the [ByLock] app was used exclusively by those who were members or supporters of the Gülen movement [is] utterly unconvincing and unsupported by any evidence,” the two barristers said, according to the Guardian.

“There is a great deal of evidence … which demonstrates that the app was widely available and used in many different countries, some of which had no links to Turkey.”

The detention of people on this basis is “arbitrary and in breach of article 5” of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees the right to liberty, the report says.

The report examines transcripts of recent trials of Gülen followers in Turkey as well as Turkish intelligence reports on ByLock. It concludes that the cases presented so far violate the ECHR, to which Turkey is a party.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic 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’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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