MİT says shared ByLock lists with judicial authorities in May 2016

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Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) announced last week that it shared the lists of users of a smart phone application known as ByLock with judicial authorities in May 2016; however, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has denied having received the lists before a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Monday.

ByLock is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding the failed coup attempt on July 15.

Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

While announcing last week that one of the prime suspects of the coup attempt, Adil Öksüz, never worked for MİT, contrary to what is claimed by an opposition leader, MİT said the deciphering of the ByLock program has played a crucial role in the crackdown on the Gülen movement and the purging of its followers from state institutions.

“Findings related to the use of ByLock gathered as a result of intelligence work were simultaneously had been shared with the judicial authorities, security units and other relevant bodies as of May 2016,” MİT said.

Cumhuriyet raised a number of questions that emerged after MİT’s announcement. “If the lists of ByLock users were shared with the police, then why was the July 15 coup attempt not prevented? Why were the officers whose names are mentioned in the ByLock lists not detained before July 15? Why was there no mention of ByLock in the indictments prepared before the July 15 coup attempt?

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. 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.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

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