Turkish police have detained 17 lawyers in İstanbul due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, according to the Bold Medya news website.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office recently ordered the detention of 20 lawyers, accusing them of ties to the movement based on payphone call records and affiliation with Bank Asya, which was closed by the government following a 2016 coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement and other associations connected to the group.
Seventeen of them were detained in operations simultaneously carried out in İstanbul, Ankara and Bursa provinces on Friday, Bold Medya said, adding that the police also seized their computers, mobile phones and books, claiming they were terrorism-related documents.
The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the 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 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.
Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war on the Gülen movement 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.