171 detained over alleged ByLock use on 6th anniversary of corruption probe

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Fake US dollar notes showing the head of Turkey's then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan with a long nose are spread across a street leading to a building of Erdogan's ruling AK party during a protest against corruption in Ankara on February 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

A total of 171 individuals have been detained in the Turkish capital of Ankara due to their alleged use of a smart phone application, known as ByLock, which is considered to be an evidence of membership in the Gülen movement by the Turkish government.

The largest operation of 2019 against alleged members of the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016, was conducted on the sixth anniversary of a corruption investigation in which senior members of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government were implicated.

As part of the Ankara-based operation, prosecutors issued detention warrants for 260 people due to their alleged use of ByLock, 171 of whom were detained following police raids on their homes on Tuesday.

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the movement since the coup attempt despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive coup.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in October 2018 that detention, arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated of Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

As part of the investigation into bribery and corruption the sons of three then-ministers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were detained on Dec. 17, 2013.

A week later another investigation reached Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan.

The so-called Dec. 17-25 investigations led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, to which Erdoğan responded by claiming that the corruption scandal was fabricated by sympathizers of the Gülen movement within the police department with the aim of overthrowing his government.

Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigation.

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