185 face detention over alleged Gülen links in ‘payphone investigations’

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Turkish prosecutors have issued detention warrants for 185 people including active duty and former military officers as well as former military cadets due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement based on payphone call records, the TR724 news website reported.

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.

The detention warrants targeting 69 active duty and 32 former officers as well as 84 former military cadets were issued by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The military cadets, who were minors at the time of the coup, are facing detention almost six years after the coup attempt for alleged Gülen links.

The detention warrants were issued based on lists drafted by the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detailing people who used payphones. Raids were being conducted across 40 provinces on Tuesday to detain the suspects.

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.

The accusations against the suspects include secretly communicating with their contacts within the movement via payphones.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt.

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, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces 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 in November.

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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