Turkish prosecutors have launched more than 2 million terrorism investigations following a coup attempt in the country in 2016, according to official data cited by a lawyer.
Lawyer Leven Mazılıgüney released data from the Justice Ministry on his Twitter account on Monday for investigations launched by prosecutors between 2014 and 2021 under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which concerns terrorism-related charges.
Turkey has a broad definition of terrorism includes crimes against the constitutional order and allows the criminalization of expressions that justify, praise or incite people to use coercion or violent methods employed by a terrorist organization.
While the number of investigations on terrorism-related allegations was 55,058 in 2014 and 36,425 in 2015, they continually rose following a failed coup on July 15, 2016, when 155.014 investigations were launched that year alone. In 2017 the number of investigations launched on terrorism-related allegations rose to a record number of 457,423, to 444,342 in 2018, to 310,954 in 2019, 208,833 in 2020 and 191,964 in 2021, totaling 1,768,530 in the 2016-2021 period.
Mazılıgüney said when the investigations initiated in 2022 are included, the number of the investigations on terror-related allegations will exceed 2 million.
Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens, particularly members of the faith-based Gülen movement, under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, yet the movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.
According to Nurullah Albayrak, a lawyer and deputy chairman of the Brussels-based rights organization Solidarity with OTHERS, who spoke to the Bold Medya news website about the Justice Ministry data, more than 2 million investigations translates into at least 5 million people being probed on terrorism-related accusations.
“There are 10 people in some investigations, 100 in some. Even if we think there are two people in every investigation, this makes around 5 million people. Can there be anything more frightening than this for a country?” Albayrak said, adding that officials from some rights organizations in Europe are shocked when they hear of so many people being investigated in Turkey on terrorism-related charges and ask whether there could be a mistake in the statistics.
According to figures provided by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in July, 117,208 people have been convicted, with 1,366 sentenced to life in prison and 1,634 to aggravated life with no chance of parole over Gülen links.
Yet judicial experts voice skepticism about the figures announced by Bozdağ, saying that 117,208 convictions are only those that have been upheld by an appeals court, since Justice Ministry data show that more than 265,000 people were sentenced on charges of terrorist organization membership between 2016 and 2020 due to their alleged Gülen links.