Turkish prosecutors ordered detention of 272 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

Turkish prosecutors have over the past week ordered the detention of 272 people on terrorism charges due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, local media reported.

On Monday the Eskişehir and İzmir public prosecutors issued detention warrants for 24 suspects, including noncommissioned officers and former military cadets.

On Tuesday prosecutors in Ankara issued detention warrants for 78 gendarmerie personnel on the accusations of secretly communicating with their contacts within the Gülen movement via payphone and 25 former personnel of the foreign ministry for allegedly leaking the questions of three ministry entrance exams in 2009 to people affiliated with the movement.

An additional 85 detention warrants were issued in İstanbul, Balıkesir and Mersin the same day for suspects that included public servants and former police academy students based on payphone records.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by 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 the abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

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.

On Wednesday 25 individuals were detained in Van and the following day six were detained in Malatya for alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Detention warrants for issued for an additional seven suspects in Gaziantep province on Thursday and 22 suspects in Konya on Friday.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Nov. 22.

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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