Twenty-seven police officers were detained across several Turkish provinces on Sunday due to their use of a smart phone application called ByLock, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Police raided dozens of locations simultaneously in Bursa, İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Sakarya, Mersin and Hatay provinces as part of an investigation into the police officers using ByLock.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have either been dismissed or arrested for using the application. Critics say the use of a technological application is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
A letter sent by Turkey’s Security Directorate General to all police units in the country told police officers to secure confessions from individuals who have been detained due to their use of ByLock because mere use of the application is not considered a crime, according to a report on Oct.1 on the tr724.com news portal.
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.
A high criminal court in Hatay province recently rejected an indictment prepared on members of the so-called Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), a term used by the Turkish government to describe the Gülen movement, saying that there is no such terrorist organization officially identified.
The same court also said use of the ByLock application alone cannot be considered a crime. The court added that it is not known when the suspects downloaded the application, with whom they communicated using it and what the content of their conversations was, saying that they cannot be accused simply for downloading ByLock.
According to media reports, Turkey’s Security Directorate General and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) have an IP address list of the people who downloaded ByLock, but they do not have the content of the conversations made over the application.
215,000 ByLock users
Former Parliament Speaker and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Mehmet Ali Şahin said in a statement in Karabük province on Sunday that there are 215,000 ByLock users in Turkey but that only 170,000 have been identified so far.
Judicial experts suggest that a person cannot be accused for using a certain means of communication, adding that they can be accused only if there is an element of crime in their messages. They also say that a court order is required to conduct technical surveillance and to be able to present the findings in court as evidence.
Technical surveillance data collected without a court order is not considered legal evidence by Turkish courts.