Fatih Gürsul, an advisor to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was sentenced by an İstanbul court on Tuesday to 10 years, six months in prison for alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Gürsul, who used to be an academic at İstanbul University, was among 11 defendants tried at İstanbul’s 25th High Criminal Court over alleged links to the movement. He was detained in December 2016 as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch-hunt targeting suspected members of the Gülen movement. Prosecutors had charged him with membership in a terrorist organization and accused him of using mobile phone messaging application ByLock.
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 even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Gürsul denied the charges at Tuesday’s hearing and claimed he never communicated with members of the Gülen movement as prosecutors alleged.
According to a report by the pro-Erdoğan Sabah daily, a message sent by Gürsul while he was apparently abroad says Kılıçdaroğlu sent him an email. In the email Kılıçdaroğlu tells Gürsul he is “sad about what’s happening in Turkey.” “Undoubtedly, you are concerned about what is going on,” Kılıçdaroğlu says in his email, according to Gürsul’s intercepted ByLock message.
Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. Previously, on Dec. 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])