Eighteen former civil servants have been detained due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement on accusations of use of the ByLock smart phone application, the TR724 news website reported.
Police raids were conducted at 22 locations across four provinces to detain the suspects, who include former police chiefs, deputy police chiefs and doctors who were fired in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016 under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Turkey considers ByLock, once widely available online, a secret tool of communication among supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch, leading to the arrest of thousands who were using it.
The Gülen movement is accused by the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock. Critics say the use of a tech app is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
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 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
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 announced 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.