An İstanbul high criminal court has ruled for the release of 33 police officers who were arrested for alleged use of a smart phone application known as ByLock.
At the 23rd hearing of a trial of 84 suspects at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court on Wednesday, the court ruled for the release of the 33 police officers considering time already served as well as taking into accountan examination of the results of their mobile phones, which produced no criminal evidence against the suspects.
Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of orchestrating a failed coup, a claim the movement denies.
The court, however, imposed a travel ban on the released police officers.
The coup attempt on July 15, 2016 killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Fethullah 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.
A total of 1,188 people were detained in the first two weeks of 2018 as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.
A total of 62,895 people were detained in 2017 as part of investigations into the movement, according to Interior Ministry reports.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Jan. 5 said 48,305 people were jailed in 2017 alone over Gülen movement links.
Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been jailed and 234,419 passports have been revoked as part of investigations into the movement since the failed coup.
Soylu on Nov. 16 had said eight holdings and 1,020 companies were seized as part of operations against the movement.
The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency declared after the coup attempt.