Turkish gov’t’s witch hunt targeting alleged members of Gülen movement goes on

The Turkish government has issued detention warrants for dozens of people and detained a large number of them as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants on Thursday for 24 people who were allegedly involved in a 2012 investigation into top officials at Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), including its undersecretary, Hakan Fidan.

The case is linked to an incident in February 2012, when an İstanbul prosecutor ordered MİT head Fidan and other officials to testify in an investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban network of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Those who are being sought include US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, Murat Karabulut, former police inspectors Yurt Atayün, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Serdar Bayraktutan, Oguzhan Ceylan and Erol Demirhan, former prosecutors Sadrettin Sarıkaya and Bilal Bayraktar, journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç, lawyers and former MİT officials.

Ten out of the 24 people were already under arrest as part of other investigations into the Gülen movement, while five people are at large. During simultaneous operations, six out of nine people, including journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç, were arrested, while operations continue to detain the remaining people.

On Feb. 7, 2012, prosecutor Sarıkaya, who was leading an İstanbul investigation into the KCK, summoned Fidan, his predecessor, Emre Taner, and former MİT deputy undersecretary Afet Güneş, who were all involved in talks with the PKK, to answer questions in the probe.

According to reports, then-President Abdullah Gül told Fidan to testify, but then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered him not to appear. Through the approval of a new law that required permission from the prime minister for legal action against MIT members by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Parliament, Erdoğan put Fidan under his legal protection.

Erdoğan, who calls Fidan his “secret box,” later interpreted the February crisis as an attempt targeting himself by the faith-based Gülen movement. President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP government pursued a crackdown on the movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Meanwhile, 11 military officers in the Turkish Air Forces were detained in Eskişehir, Ankara, İzmir and İstanbul provinces on Thursday following the issuance of detention warrants by the Eskişehir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 16 military officers over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Thursday, two people were detained in Edirne province by Turkish border security forces as they were allegedly trying to flee from Turkey to Greece by crossing the Evros River.  Bahaattin D., a teacher who was dismissed by a government decree over his alleged links to the Gülen movement and sought for his alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application and his wife İlknur D., who was jailed for a while over her alleged links to the movement, were detained together with their two children.

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

Police also detained 13 people on Thursday during a raid on a house in İzmir province, while eight people were detained by police in Muğla province over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

In a separate operation in Muğla, police detained four people in Bodrum on Thursday over their alleged links to the movement as they were allegedly preparing to flee from Turkey to the Greek islands. It was reported that the detainees are tw lieutenants who were dismissed from the army by a government decree under a state of emergency and their wives.

On Wednesday, the Tekirdağ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 26 military personnel, including retired colonels and active duty majors, in 15 provinces over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Also on Wednesday, 16 people were detained in five provinces over their alleged links to the movement and their alleged use of ByLock in a Malatya-based investigation. It was reported that seven more people were being sought over the same charges as part of the probe.

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 more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. 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.

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