Twenty-three high-ranking officers in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been detained on charges of using ByLock, a smart phone application that authorities believe is a communication tool between members of the Gülen movement.
The officers were detained across four provinces as part of an İzmir-based operation. Police are looking for four other officers for whom detention warrants have also been issued.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using the application. Recently, Fatih Gürsul, an advisor to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was also arrested on charges of using ByLock.
Turkey’s purge of its military since a botched coup in July has cut its armed forces by a third, according to a report by the Council of Europe adding that NATO has raised concerns that Turkey’s response to the failed coup has worryingly thinned its forces.
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.
Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched 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 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 90,000 detained and over 41,000 have been 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.