7 former, active duty air force officers detained over alleged Gülen links

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Seven former and active duty officers from Turkey’s air force have been detained in police raids as part of an investigation in the Turkish capital city of Ankara targeting alleged Gülen movement members, the TR724 news website reported on Friday.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Detention warrants were issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for eight former and active duty officers including non-commissioned officers. One of the officers could not be found at their address.

The suspects are accused of using payphones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement.

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 Turkish Armed Forces (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.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, 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 the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

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