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19 face detention in southeastern Turkey for Gülen links

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Turkish authorities have ordered the detention of 19 people, including 12 academics, in southeastern Bitlis and Gaziantep provinces for alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.

Eight academics were detained during police raids on their homes in Bitlis, and the police are still searching for the other four suspects wanted in that province. The prosecutor ordered the detention of the academics based on anonymous witness statements.

One person was detained in Gaziantep for attending a private school affiliated with the movement several years ago. The six other suspects were not found at their addresses in that province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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 a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Witness statements have caused tens of thousands of people to be imprisoned in Turkey over alleged links to the movement in the past several years, despite a landmark decision in 2021, when the Constitutional Court ruled that the statement of an eyewitness cannot be regarded as evidence of terrorism in the case of a former military officer imprisoned in late 2017.

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.

Such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institution linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines were accepted as benchmarks for identifying and arresting alleged members of the movement.

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