The İstanbul and İzmir public prosecutor’s offices have issued detention warrants for 110 people on accusations that they use a smart phone application known as ByLock, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
According to the report 30 of 59 suspects sought by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office and 43 of 51 people sought by the İzmir Public Prosecutor’s Office have been detained by police.
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 homemakers, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Freedom House, a US-based independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, listed Turkey in its newly released “Freedom on the Net 2017” as among the countries in which Internet freedoms are restricted the most and said tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been arbitrarily detained for their alleged use of the encrypted communications app ByLock.
The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers ruled 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 reported on a study commissioned by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which argues that the arrest of 75,000 suspects primarily because they downloaded the ByLock app was arbitrary and illegal.
“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 conducting the study said, according to the Guardian.”
Dutch cyber security firm Fox-IT 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 its 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.