Turkey orders hundreds of detentions over alleged Gülen links in a week

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Turkish authorities have ordered the detention of 279 people in the last five days due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing Turkish media.

Turkish prosecutors in several cities on Wednesday issued detention warrants for 65 active duty and former military officers, dismissed judges and prosecutors, and lawyers and teachers across the country due to alleged Gülen links.

Some of the suspects for whom arrest warrants were issued in Adana, Ankara, İstanbul and Konya provinces are accused of using payphones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement, while others are suspected of using the ByLock mobile phone application.

Turkish authorities claim that ByLock was a communication tool exclusively used by members of the movement. The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has repeatedly stated that arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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 an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Turkish authorities on Tuesday ordered the detention of 214 people including active duty and expelled military officers as well as former military cadets.

The İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 44 active duty and 25 expelled and retired military officers and 145 former cadets over alleged Gülen links. Police conducted operations across 41 provinces and detained 137 suspects. The suspects are accused of communicating with alleged members of the Gülen movement via payphones to avoid detection.

The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links. Receiving calls from a payphone periodically is also considered a red flag.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on February 20 that a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.

The Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.

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