Eighteen people who were claimed to be using ByLock, a smart phone messaging application, were arrested on Friday as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.
Turkish prosecutors claim that ByLock is the top communication tool among members of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a July 15 coup attempt. Critics, however, have blasted the government for detaining thousands simply for using a mobile application.
A Kayseri court on Friday ruled for the arrest of the 18 people who had been earlier detained.
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 of the 180,000 users of ByLock in Turkey.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.
More than 100,000 people have been purged from state bodies, 70,000 investigated and 32,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.
Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.