Turkish prosecutors ordered detention of 144 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish prosecutors have over the past week ordered the detention of 144 people including active duty military and police officers due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to reports by Turkish media.

On Tuesday the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in western Turkey issued detention warrants for 42 active duty and 12 dismissed military members, 10 former military cadets and 14 currently serving and six dismissed police officers over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations across 49 provinces to detain the suspects.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The same day detention warrants for 60 people including active duty officers in the Turkish Armed Forces, retired and dismissed officers and civilians were issued by the chief public prosecutor’s office in İstanbul. The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement via payphones to avoid detection.

The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.

The authorities do not have the actual content of the phone calls in question and they do not know if there actually was a phone conversation or if the call was unanswered. According to human rights lawyers, under normal circumstances such call records cannot be considered legal evidence.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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