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Turkey detains Gülen’s niece, her husband on terror charges: report

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Asiye Gülen, a niece of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, was detained along with her husband in İstanbul’s Esenyurt district on Saturday, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported, citing an anonymous source.

The Turkish government has designated the faith-based movement inspired by Fethullah Gülen as a terrorist organization. Gülen, a Turkish cleric resident in the US, and his followers have continuously denied accusations of coup orchestration and terrorism, stating that their movement emphasizes educational activities and charity work worldwide and had no involvement in the coup or any terrorist activity.

İstanbul police intelligence units raided Asiye and her husband Mustafa Çamyar’s house, seizing items such as mobile phones, SIM cards, laptops, DVDs and hard disks along with one dollar bills often connected by the government to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government claims that followers of the Gülen movement used one dollar bills to send coded messages. Consequently, possession of one dollar bills has been accepted as evidence by the courts, including in the case of a NASA scientist, Serkan Gölge, who was imprisoned for nearly three years on bogus terrorism charges. In 2018 a popular pop singer known as “Mabel Matiz” testified to prosecutors about using one dollar bills in a video clip shot in 2017.

Past employment with companies affiliated with Kaynak Holding, having owned an account at Bank Asya and membership in a labor union that was shut down by a decree-law are the grounds for the accusations against Asiye Gülen, the Kronos news website reported.

This incident follows the arrest of Selahattin Gülen, another relative of Fethullah Gülen, in May 2021. Selahattin was forcibly returned to Turkey from Kenya, despite a Kenyan court ruling against his extradition, marking another instance of the Turkish government’s efforts to bring individuals linked to the Gülen movement back to Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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 the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused the Gülen movement of perpetrating.

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 24,706 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.

According to a statement from then-interior minister Süleyman Soylu on July 5, 2022, a total of 332,884 had been detained, while around 101,000 others had been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 19,252 people in Turkey’s prisons at the time who were jailed on alleged links to the movement while 24,000 others were at large.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

Some of these people had to take illegal and risky journeys in boats to Greece because their passports had been revoked by the government.

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