Seventy-six public officials who were claimed to be using ByLock, a smart phone messaging application, have been detained as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.
The Kayseri Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for 141 people for using the ByLock application as part of an investigation launched for “violation of the Constitution, an attempt to topple the government and membership in an armed terrorist organization.” In accordance with the warrants police carried out operations at locations in Kayseri, Bingöl, Konya, Kırıkkale, Mersin, Afyonkarahisar, İstanbul, Ankara, Yozgat, Bursa, İzmir, Samsun, Tokat, Mardin, Düzce and Sivas provinces.
The 76 people who were detained during the operation have received health checks at Kayseri State Hospital.
Labor and Social Security Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu told reporters in Bursa on Sept. 14 that the Turkish intelligence agency had determined the identity of nearly half the 180,000 users of ByLock in Turkey.
Opening an account at Bank Asya after the Dec.17 and Dec. 25 corruption operations and using the ByLock applications are mentioned as the basic criteria for pursuing the witch-hunt against the Gülen movement.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which launched a war against the Gülen movement following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 in which senior government members were implicated, carried its ongoing crackdown on the movement and its sympathizers to a new level after a failed coup attempt on July 15 which killed 240 people and injured a thousand of others.
Although the movement strongly denies having any role in the corruption probe and the coup attempt, the government accuses it of having masterminded both despite the lack of any tangible evidence.
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Recep Tayyip 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.
More than 100,000 people have been purged from state bodies, nearly 43,000 detained and 24,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees included journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.