Detention warrants issued for 22 military personnel over alleged Gülen links

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The Erzincan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday issued detention warrants for 17 active duty and five former military members as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, 16 of 20 officers have been detained in police operations in 15 provinces.

One  noncommissioned officer was also detained over links to the Gülen movement in Eskişehir province on Thursday.

On Tuesday detention warrants were issued for 23 active duty and three former military members as part of an investigation into the movement in Çanakkale. Detention warrants were issued on Monday in Ankara for 19 active duty and 49 former military members over alleged movement links.

Turkish authorities in June had ordered the detention of at least 312 military personnel in operations targeting suspected supporters of the Gülen movement.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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.

The ruling AKP government dismissed 24,977 military members including 150 generals, 4,630 officers, 2,167 noncommissioned officers, 1,210 specialized sergeants, 411 civil servants and workers, and 16,409 cadets following the failed coup over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli on April 18, 2018 said the government had identified 3,000 active duty military officers suspected of links to the Gülen movement and that they would be dismissed with a government decree in the coming days.

Official statements claim that 8,651 military members including cadets and privates took part in the failed coup.

Director General of Public Security Selami Altınok on Dec. 12, 2017 said 22,987 police officers had been dismissed over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“If it was a coup perpetrated by the Gülen movement and 25,000 military personnel and 22,987 police officers were dismissed for their connections to the movement, why did only 8,651 military members including cadets and privates participate in the coup?” is a question being asked by critics.

The government has been at the center of criticism for turning the Turkish armed forces into a political Islamist military in line with the wishes of President Erdoğan.

A military officer candidate was reportedly asked questions about the Quran and the anti-government Gezi protests of 2013 during an interview in October 2017.

In June, an imam-hatip, or religious high school, in İzmir province promised its graduates preference in enrollment at military and police academies.

Some find the Turkish government’s efforts to Islamicize the Turkish army alarming and warn that NATO risks having a member army filled with extremists.

In February of last year Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.

The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, last year said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.

Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with Fox News in March 2017 that he had not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.

In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.

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