Turkish gov’t sentences former deputy, HSYK inspector, university student in prison over alleged Gülen links

Former Justice and Development Party (AKP) Yalova deputy Şükrü Önder.

Turkish government has sentenced a former deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a former chief inspector for the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and an university student to 6-9 years in prison over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

AKP’s former Yalova deputy Şükrü Önder has been given 6 years, 3 months prison sentence over alleged membership to Turkey’s Gülen movement. According to a report by T24 news portal, a Yalova High Criminal Court made the ruling with Önder’s use of ByLock mobile phone messaging application being the main evidence. Önder served as an AKP deputy at Turkish Parliament between 2002-2007.

Turkish authorities consider ByLock to be the top communication tool among the alleged members of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

Meanwhile, Ali Görel, a former chief inspector for HSYK, has been given 8 years, 9 months prison sentence over alleged membership to the Gülen movement. According to a report by pro-government Hürriyet daily, the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court found Görel guilty on Wednesday on the grounds that he was a “member of an armed terrorist organization which attempted to destroy the unity of the state and nation.” Gürel was earlier dismissed from his job with a decree issued by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

Moreover, a last-year econometrics student at İzmir’s Dokuz Eylül University was sentenced to 8 years in jail on accusations of membership to the Gülen movement on Tuesday. Under arrest over a year, the student, identified with his initials E.H., appeared before an İzmir court for his final hearing on Tuesday.

The prosecutor’s office claimed that E.H. had used ByLock mobile application, he received scholarship from an association linked to the Gülen movement, he had an account at Bank Asya; and he owned a memory stick in which he allegedly stored religious sermons by Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen.

E.H. denied the accusations, demanded his release and said that “I want to continue my education. However the court sentenced him to 5 years and 4 months in prison on charges of membership to a terrorist organization and increased the imprisonment to 8 years in accordance with the anti-terror laws. Already spent more than a year behind bars, E.H. was released following the ruling.

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.

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