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UN working group on arbitrary detention says use of ByLock is freedom of expression

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The United Nation Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an opinion stating that use of a smart phone application known as ByLock, which has caused thousands of people in Turkey to be jailed on terrorism charges, falls under the right to freedom of expression, according to a report on the Aktif Haber news website.

The working group has concluded reviewing an application from two former judges in Turkey, Melike Göksan and her husband Mehmet Göksan, who were jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization.” Although the Gülen movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed coup, the Turkish government started a massive crackdown on the group, detaining over half a million people for their alleged ties to the movement.

The judges are accused of having downloaded ByLock, which was the top communication tool among Gülen movement followers, according to Turkish authorities.

Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since the coup attempt.

In its decision dated Aug. 16, the working group said as long as the Turkish authorities do not openly explain how the use of ByLock is tantamount to criminal activity, arrests based on ByLock use would be considered arbitrary.

Both of the judges are still in jail in the southern Turkish province of Adana. While Melike Göksan was given a jail sentence of nine years, nine months, Mehmet Göksan received seven years, six months on terrorism charges. The judges also challenged the verdicts at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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