Police teams conducted raids on 26 locations on Friday morning in an effort to detain 37 people due to their alleged use of the ByLock smart phone application, considered by the Turkish government to be evidence of membership in the Gülen movement.
The raids were conducted across eight cities as part of an İstanbul-based operation overseen by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The 37 people are accused of using ByLock, once widely available online, which has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the movement since a failed coup attempt in 2016 despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labelled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Eleven of the people facing detention over ByLock use were reportedly abroad. It was not clear how many of the people were taken into police custody.
Thousands of people who have real or alleged links to the Gülen movement had to flee the country following the coup attempt due to a massive crackdown launched by the government on the movement.
The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in October 2018 that detention, arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated of Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.