Turkish prosecutors order hundreds of arrests over alleged Gülen links in less than a week

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Turkish authorities have ordered the detention of 221 people in the last four days due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported on Friday, citing Turkish media.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday ordered the detention of 32 people, 20 of whom had been taken into custody as of the time of writing.

The same office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 46 people including teachers, former public officers and active duty and dismissed military personnel over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations across 21 provinces.

The public prosecutor’s office in İzmir in a separate investigation on Tuesday ordered the detention of 22 engineers, technicians and other employees of PETKİM, a leading Turkish petrochemicals company. The suspects are accused of having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, at one time one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks.

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.

Police raids were conducted on Tuesday in 32 provinces across the country to detain the suspects, 81 of whom are currently in custody. The detentions were part of an investigation based in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, where prosecutors issued detention warrants for 121 people including active duty noncommissioned officers, doctors, teachers and other civilians. The suspects are accused of continuing involvement in the movement’s activities and of using the ByLock messaging app.

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.

Turkish 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.

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