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

Turkish government has issued detention warrants for dozens of people on Thursday across Turkey as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish police launched operations in 8 provinces to detain 39 alleged members of the the Gülen movement over their alleged use of mobile phone messaging application ByLock. The operations came following the detention warrants, which mostly include doctors and teachers, were issued by İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The İstanbul police’s counter-terror division ordered the launch of operations in eight provinces.

In a separate probe in the capital city of Ankara, detention warrants were issued on Thursday for 13 people, including 11 from the Court of Cassation staff and two from the Justice Ministry. Ten of these people were reportedly dismissed previously from their positions over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that 10 people have been detained so far while police seek the remaining 3.

Meanwhile, a former professional footballer was re-detained on Wednesday over his alleged links to the Gülen movement. Zafer Biryol, 41, who played for Fenerbahce, Bursaspor and Konyaspor as well as making five appearances for Turkey’s national team, had been released on bail two weeks ago.

However, he was re-detained in İstanbul on Wednesday. Biryol is alleged to have used ByLock and he has been charged with membership of a “terrorist organization.”

Also on Wednesday, police have detained 17 people over their alleged use of ByLock in a probe in which Çanakkale Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for 34 people. Police detained 17 people in operations in Çanakkale, Hakkari, Ordu, İstanbul, Kahramanmaraş, Antalya, Diyarbakır, İzmir, Adıyaman, Ankara, Bingöl, Bursa, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kocaeli, Konya, Muğla and Muş provinces.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the 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 the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Moreover, Samsun 3rd High Criminal Court has ruled prison sentences from 1 year and 6 months to 7 years and 6 months for 34 teachers who were dismissed by government decree under the rule of emergency. Twelve out of 54 teachers, who were tried by the court, were acquitted from the charges. It was reported that 19 out of 54 people have been in pre-trial detention.

The court has sentenced teachers Ahmet Alış, Ali Bayram İskender, Ayşe Boz Çolak, Coşkun Yetkin, Elif Serin, Eyüp Köse, Hatice Meral Bilen, İsmail Soylu, İsmet Atasoy, Kağan Özdemir, Mehmet Ünsal, Mete Kılıç, Mustafa Şener, Müyesser Temiz, Nilgün Ebrar Karakaya, Sabri Çolak, Seydiahmet Van, Sırma Arslan, Songül Gökdağ Van, Tamer Meral, Tuncay Karakuş, Utku Bakar, Ünül Tacir, Yaşar Aksoy and Zelfir Erdoğan to 6 years and 3 months of prison term over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Teachers Alper Muhçu, Hamza Özdemir, Halil Özçelik, Muhsin Bayrak, Mustafa Kara, Osman İner and Ömer Bedir were sentenced by the same court to 7 years and 6 months of imprisonment over same accusation.

Moreover, Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told him that he would “extradite the coup plotters in 15-20 days.” Erdoğan has been on a official trip to Greece on Thursday.

Speaking to Greece’s local broadcaster Skai TV ahead of his visit to the country on Thursday, Erdoğan touched bilateral relations between Turkey and Greece. Greek people should know that negative relations between Turkey and Greece is history now, said Erdoğan. “Unfortunately, these [coup plotters] are still in Greece. We need to follow these very carefully,” Erdogan said, adding that if there is this kind of action against Greece, Turkey also must seize them and extradite them to Greece.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” he added and said that this is the delayed justice. “There are few countries that we have done it in a very quick manner, but we couldn’t do it with Greece.”

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 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 has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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.

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