Turkish police have detained 14 people including former military and police officers as part of an operation based in İstanbul targeting alleged members of the faith-based Gülen movement, the TR724 news website reported.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued the detention warrants for 17 people on allegations that they used the ByLock smart phone application, deposited money at the now-closed Islamic lender Bank Asya or were members of Gülen-linked foundations, all considered signs of membership in the Gülen movement.
The Turkish government accuses the 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.
ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.
Fourteen of the suspects were detained in police operations across four provinces on Wednesday, while efforts were underway to detain the remaining three suspects.
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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt.