The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday issued detention warrants for 40 people, including 23 active duty and 12 dismissed members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The suspects are accused of using payphones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement. Thirty-two of the suspects were detained in night raids across 12 provinces. Operations continue to detain the remaining eight.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.
The country’s defense minister, Hulusi Akar, recently announced that 23,364 personnel from the TSK have been expelled over Gülen links since the failed coup.
According to the pro-government Sabah daily, when members dismissed from the gendarmerie and the coast guard are included, the total increases to 29,444. The figure does not include 16,409 military cadets who were expelled after the coup attempt.