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Former member of top court gets 12 years, 9 months for Gülen movement ‘membership’

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The Supreme Court of Appeals on Wednesday issued a final verdict for a former member and sentenced him to 12 years, nine months’ imprisonment for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency 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.

One of the pieces of evidence against former judge Dursun Murat Cevher was his alleged use of the ByLock smart phone application.

Turkey considers ByLock, once widely available online, a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since the July 2016 failed coup, 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 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in June in the case of a former police officer that use of the ByLock application is not an offense in itself and does not constitute sufficient evidence for an arrest.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also stated in October 2018 that detention, arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated of Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to a statement from the interior ministry in March 2019, 95,310 people were charged over alleged use of the ByLock application. In its technical report, which courts use as basis for their decisions, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) stated that 60,473 defendants had at least one message posted using ByLock while 34,837 defendants had not posted any message using the application.

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