15 businesspeople sentenced to prison over Gülen links

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Fifteen defendants have been sentenced to prison in a trial concerning the activities of the now-closed Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkish media outlets reported.

TUSKON was one of the hundreds of civil society organizations that were closed down following a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the abortive putsch. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

At the last hearing of the trial on Friday in which 35 mainly businesspeople were defendants, six were given prison sentences of six years, three months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, while nine were given 25-month prison sentences on charges of aiding a terrorist organization without being members of it.

US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, TUSKON President Rızanur Meral, his wife Zeynep and the organization’s secretary-general Mustafa Günay were among the defendants. Their files were separated because they are outside Turkey.

Turkish President Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement following a Dec.17-25, 2013 corruption investigation that included ministers and Erdoğan’s family.  It turned into a witch-hunt following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The government has been confiscating the private property of businesspeople and jailing them on alleged ties to the movement without due process on unsubstantiated charges.

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