Turkish police on Thursday detained 81 people including active duty military officers and nongovernmental organization members over alleged links to the Gülen movement.
The Gaziantep Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in southeastern Turkey issued detention warrants for 121 people including active duty noncommissioned officers, doctors, teachers and other civilians on allegations that they used ByLock, a smart phone application, were members of nongovernmental organizations that had links to the Gülen movement or deposited money in the now-defunct Islamic lender Bank Asya, which are all considered as signs of membership in the Gülen movement by the Turkish authorities.
Turkish authorities claim that ByLock was a communication tool exclusively used by members of the movement. The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has repeatedly stated that arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Police raids were conducted in 32 provinces across the country to detain the suspects, 81 of whom are currently in custody.
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.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on February 20 that a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 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 are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.
The government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.