Detention warrants have been issued for 133 former and current staff members of the Finance and Labor and Social Security ministries over the use of a smart phone application known as ByLock, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.
According to the report, police launched operations in 11 provinces to detain 133 people as part of an investigation by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office into the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of mounting a coup attempt last year. The movement strongly denies any involvement.
One hundred twenty-nine of the 133 people are reported to have been dismissed by the government as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement following the coup attempt.
Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement.
Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and housemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled in September that 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 being strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.
A legal opinion published in London in September 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.
The Guardian reported on a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and conducted by a pair of 2 Bedford Row attorneys which argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app was arbitrary and illegal.
“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,” concluded two experienced British barristers, William Clegg QC and Simon Baker.
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.
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.