Foreign academic indicted in Turkey on terror charges for using ByLock

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An academic from Kosovo who used to work for the İzmir Institute of Technology has been indicted on charges of membership in a terrorist organization because he was found to have downloaded the ByLock mobile phone application to his phone, Turkish media reports said.

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 in 2016, a claim the movement denies.

The İzmir Institute of Technology, where Kosovar academic Zana B. used to work, was closed down in the aftermath of the coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement. An investigation was launched into the institute’s staff members last November, as a result of which eight people were detained.

Zana B., who was among the detainees, was subsequently released on judicial probation; however, prosecutors drafted an indictment against him seeking a jail sentence of between seven and 15 years on charges of being a member of a terror organization because he downloaded the ByLock app.

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 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 last 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 constituting strong evidence of terrorist organization membership.

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