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Turkish journalist threatened by Erdoğan, investigated over his ByLock claim

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While returning from Poland on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened Turkish journalist and Fox TV anchor İsmail Küçükkaya.

Regarding allegations put forward by Küçükkaya of the use of controversial mobile phone message application ByLock by Minister for Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya’s spouse, President Erdoğan told reporters on the plane:

“[Regarding the allegations of a divorce between the minister and her husband over his use of the ByLock application], this is shameless, immoral and vile slander. Our lady minister [sic] made a statement [on the issue] reserving her legal rights. This [ByLock allegation] is not true. Whoever shamelessly writes, says, prompts, this shall pay a price for this legally. You can’t make immoral and vile accusations against my lady minister. Someone prompts it on TV and another one reports it in the press. I told our minister [Kaya] that I would follow up on this myself. I also asked her to follow this case [on Küçükkaya],” the Hürriyet daily reported on Wednesday.

An İstanbul prosecutor on Tuesday launched an investigation into journalist and Fox TV anchor Küçükkaya and lawyer Fidel Okan for implying that Minister Kaya’s husband İlyas Kaya used the mobile phone messaging app ByLock, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported on Wednesday.

Küçükkaya announced in a Wednesday tweet that he had gone to the courthouse upon having been summoned by a public prosecutor regarding his claim about the ByLock use of the minister’s husband.

According to the report, an İstanbul prosecutor summoned Küçükkaya and Okan to testify over accusations of “publicly insulting a civil servant” and of “defamation of the government.” Küçükkaya reportedly apologized for tweeting about the minister’s private life while standing by his claim that Kaya’s husband used ByLock.

Minister of Family and Social Policy Kaya on Oct. 16 denied allegations that she had divorced her husband after learning he had downloaded the ByLock app on his cell phone.

Küçükkaya and Okan tweeted on Monday that a minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) divorced her spouse after she found out that he had downloaded the ByLock app. Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, a claim strongly denied by the movement.

According to Turkish media, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) found that İlyas Kaya had downloaded the ByLock app to this phone, leading to Minister Kaya divorcing him immediately and secretly.

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

The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled last month 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 constituting strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

The Guardian last month reported on a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Erdoğan which argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app was arbitrary and illegal.

Most recently, Dutch cyber security firm Fox-IT said on Sept. 13 that it had debunked a report by 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.

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