Turkish gov’t removes restrictions from 155,350 passports

The Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs has removed restrictions from 155,350 passports belonging primarily to spouses of people allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement or their close relatives, the T24 news website reported.

The movement is accused by the government of orchestrating a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 – a claim strongly denied by the movement — and has been designated a “terrorist organization” by Turkish authorities. In most cases the spouses of Gülen-linked suspects were not allowed to leave the country due to a notation in their passports.

After the presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced that restrictions imposed on 181,500 passport holders would be lifted.

The ministry also said in a statement that they had not found any legal action facing holders of the passports; therefore, they decided to remove the restrictions at the end of a state of emergency that was declared following an abortive coup in 2016 and terminated on July 18, 2018.

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 organisation,” 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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