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Turkey orders detention of 37 people over Gülen links

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A public prosecutor in Ankara has issued detention warrants for 37 people including former military cadets and retired, dismissed or active duty military members due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported on Tuesday.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that the warrants were issued as part of an investigation concerning the Land Forces Command, claiming that the suspects, including two active duty military officers, one retired military officer and four expelled military officers and 28 dismissed military cadets, were linked to the Gülen movement.

Police conducted operations across 12 provinces to detain them and have so far taken 20 into custody. The suspects are accused of using pay phones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement.

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 “pay phone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same pay phone 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 pay phone periodically is also considered a red flag.

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.

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