Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 58 people including civilians, former and active duty military officers and cadets and former police chiefs in two separate operations over alleged links to the Gülen movement, local media reported on Tuesday.
The Turkish government accuses the faith-based 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.
According to the media reports, former police chiefs were among 32 people for whom the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants over alleged links to the movement.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 32 suspects, including former police chiefs who had uncovered a network that was accused of framing military officers using female escorts to acquire confidential information from the Turkish Armed Forces as part of an investigation conducted in western İzmir province after 2010.
Seventeen of them were detained in 16 provinces as part of an operation carried out by the counterterrorism police in İstanbul. Eight others were found to have been arrested as part of investigations into the Gülen movement, while efforts were underway to detain the remaining seven, the reports said.
As part of a separate investigation, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 26 people, including six civilians, three former military cadets and seven active duty, seven dismissed and three retired military officers at the Air Forces Command.
The office accuses the suspects of secretly communicating with their contacts within the movement via payphones.
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 counterterrorism police in Ankara launched an operation and detained 17 of the suspects, local media reports said.
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 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Nov. 22.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.