A regional appeals court in İstanbul has upheld a prison sentence handed down to Faruk Güllü, founder of the well-known Güllüoğlu baklava chain, on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, Turkish media reported on Friday.
In February 2020 Güllü was sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which the Turkish authorities accuse of orchestrating a coup attempt in July 2016.
The local court also decided to release Güllü pending appeal, taking into consideration his health problems and the fact that he had been behind bars for three-and-a-half years. He was placed under judicial supervision and prohibited from traveling abroad.
The court also ruled to lift the measures imposed on Güllü’s assets, specifically the decision to appoint trustees to run his company, citing a lack of substantive evidence of the acquisition of the assets through criminal activities.
Hearing the appeal, the 2nd Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice found no irregularities in the procedures or merits of the case in the local court’s decision, noting no deficiency in the evidence.
In its unanimous decision, the chamber rejected the defendant’s appeal, refuting the arguments put forward by the defendant’s lawyer.
The case file was sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals for review. If the Supreme Court of Appeals upholds the decision, Güllü will be sent back to prison to serve his remaining time.
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 Dec. 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.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, 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 Gülen movement.
The Turkish 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.