Two men working for the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), which is managed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family and friends, were arrested on April 20 on charges of using a smart phone application known as ByLock, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday.
President Erdoğan’s son Bilal serves on the Advisory Council board of TÜGVA, which was founded in 2013, while his daughter Sümeyye runs promotional campaigns, inaugurating branches in various Turkish provinces.
The TÜGVA officials under arrest, Esad Erdoğan and his brother Ekrem Erdoğan, are accused of membership in an armed terrorist organization due to their use of ByLock, which is considered as the top communication tool by the Turkish authorities among the followers of the Gülen movement.
The Erdoğan brothers denied having any links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.
The failed 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 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.