Turkey orders detention of 196 people over alleged Gülen links in a week

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Turkish authorities have over the past week ordered the detention of 196 people including lawyers, former civil servants, active duty and dismissed military and police officers due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday issued detention warrants for 11 people including lawyers, academics and dismissed public officers. Police conducted operations across four provinces to locate them.

Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday issued detention warrants for 143 people over alleged Gülen links. The warrants, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, targeted 86 former public servants including police chiefs who were fired following a coup attempt in 2016, among others. Police conducted raids across 43 provinces to detain the suspects.

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 the 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.

As part of an investigation launched by the Balıkesir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, detention warrants were issued on Monday for 42 people including active duty and former military officers, former military cadets and civilians. The suspects are accused of using payphones to secretly communicate with their contacts in the Gülen movement.

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.

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

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