Turkish gov’t releases 201 people who jailed over ByLock allegedly by mistake

Turkish government has released 201 people, including police officers, military officers, teachers, lawyers and journalists beside of Şükrü Önder, former deputy of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Cumhuriyet daily’s staff member Emre İper, who were arrested on their alleged links to the Gülen movement over their alleged use of mobile phone messaging application ByLock.

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.

Şükrü Önder, a former Turkish parliamentarian imprisoned on suspicion of using the ByLock has reportedly been released by Turkish government late Thursday. Önder’s release follows an announcement that some alleged ByLock users had been unwittingly “directed” to the app.

Cumhuriyet daily’s staff member Emre İper was also released on Friday after an Ankara prosecutor said nearly 11,500 people had wrongfully been accused of using the mobile application. İper remained arrested for 267 days before his release for which his lawyers had applied to court, Cumhuriyet reported.

Mustafa Yaman, a member of the Felicity Party’s (SP) İstanbul Provincial Board, was also released by a court in İstanbul on Thursday after it was proven that thousands of phones were allegedly directed to ByLock servers without their knowledge after they downloaded an application.nEleven other suspects arrested were also released on Wednesday in the western province of Afyonkarahisar by a similar ruling.

The application “Mor Beyin” (Purple Brain) was allegedly created by Kemalettin Cengiz Erbakırcı, who is a former employee of the Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK). He allegedly created the software – which manipulates servers by randomly directing mobile phone signals to the ByLock application – and fled Turkey four days after the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, according to prosecutors.

Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and homemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Freedom House, a US-based independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, listed Turkey in its newly released “Freedom on the Net 2017” as among the countries in which Internet freedoms are restricted the most and said tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been arbitrarily detained for their alleged use of the encrypted communications app ByLock.

The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled that the ByLock smart phone application is to be considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organization following Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül’s remarks on ByLock constituting strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

The Guardian reported on a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan which argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app was arbitrary and illegal.

“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 conducting the study said, according to the Guardian.”

Dutch cyber security firm Fox-IT said on Sept. 13 that it had debunked a report by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on the ByLock smartphone application as it discovered inconsistencies and manipulations.

In a statement on its website, Fox-IT said the quality of the MİT report on ByLock is very low, especially when weighed against the legal consequences of the report, which is the basis of detention for 75,000 Turkish citizens, mainly sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

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