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Supreme court rules on ByLock in line with justice minister’s remarks

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The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers has ruled the ByLock smart phone application is to be considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organization following Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül’s remarks on ByLock constituting strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

According to the decision, ByLock will be considered evidence in and of itself for prosecution on charges of membership in the Gülen movement, accused by the government of mounting a botched coup attempt in July 2016.

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.

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].”

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.

A recent legal opinion published in London found that tens of thousands of Turkish citizens detained or dismissed from their jobs on the basis of downloading ByLock have had their human rights violated.

According to a report in The Guardian, a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and conducted by a pair of 2 Bedford Row attorneys argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app is arbitrary and illegal.

According to the report by Guardian legal affairs correspondent Owen Bowcott, the legal opinion was commissioned by a pro-Gülen organization based in Europe. The two experienced British barristers, William Clegg QC and Simon Baker, drafted the opinion.

“The evidence that the [ByLock] app was used exclusively by those who were members or supporters of the Gülen movement [is] utterly unconvincing and unsupported by any evidence,” the two barristers said, according to the Guardian.

“There is a great deal of evidence … which demonstrates that the app was widely available and used in many different countries, some of which had no links to Turkey.”

The detention of people on this basis is “arbitrary and in breach of article 5” of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees the right to liberty, the report says.

The report examines transcripts of recent trials of Gülen followers in Turkey as well as Turkish intelligence reports on ByLock. It concludes that the cases presented so far violate the ECHR, to which Turkey is a party.

In a separately commissioned report, Thomas Moore, a British computer forensics expert, says ByLock was available to download free of charge on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

“It was downloaded over 600,000 times between April 2014 and April 2016 by users all over the world,” Moore says. “It is, in my opinion, therefore nonsensical to suggest that its availability was restricted to a particular group of people.”

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