Turkish police on Friday morning conducted raids on dozens of locations in an effort to detain 48 people due to their alleged use of the ByLock smart phone application, considered by the Turkish government to be evidence of membership in the Gülen movement.
The raids were conducted across nine provinces as part of two separate investigations based in İstanbul and Ankara. The 48 people, among whom are purged police officers, police chiefs, doctors and lawyers, are accused of using ByLock, once widely available online, which has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the movement since a failed coup attempt in 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
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.
Since the coup attempt, followers of the Gülen movement have been subjected to a massive crackdown, with the Turkish government and pro-government media outlets demonizing its members.
The Turkish government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs due to alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November a total of 292,000 people have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.