Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said on Monday that using the ByLock smartphone application is strong evidence of membership in a terrorist organization, ahead of a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers on the issue.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Bursa provincial branch, Gül said there had already been a decision by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals in June against users of ByLock, believed by Turkish authorities to be a communication tool among Gülen movement followers, which is accused by the government of being behind a failed coup in Turkey last year.
Implying that the Assembly of Criminal Chambers would uphold the 16th Criminal Chamber’s decision, Gül said, “The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers will now finalize an appellate review [of ByLock].”
Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the faith-based Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup.
In June of this year, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals said ByLock is a communication network used by Gülen movement followers and that it is sufficient to download the application to be accused of membership in the Gülen movement, which is considered a terrorist organization by the AKP government according to a National Security Council (MGK) decision in May 2016.
Most recently, Dutch cyber security firm Fox-IT, known for providing cyber security solutions to governments, said on Sept. 13 that it had debunked a report by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on the ByLock smartphone application as it discovered inconsistencies and manipulations.
In a statement on it website, Fox-IT said the quality of the MİT report on ByLock is very low, especially when weighed against the legal consequences of the report, which is the basis of detention for 75,000 Turkish citizens, mainly sympathizers of the Gülen movement.