Defendant accused of using Signal app argued Elon Musk was just as guilty

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A defendant facing terrorism-related charges due to alleged membership in the faith-based Gülen movement had filed a complaint during a hearing in June against Elon Musk, arguing that the tech entrepreneur promoted the use of the Signal messaging app that he was accused of using, the Independent Turkish service reported on Friday.

The indictment against suspect Metin Can Yılmaz claims that his having installed Signal on his phone is evidence that he was a member of “FETÖ” because the encrypted instant messaging app is widely used by district and provincial executives of the group.

FETÖ is a derogatory term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

According to Independent Turkish, Yılmaz filed a complaint against Musk during a hearing on June 23, indicating that he had encouraged the use of Signal on social media and therefore should also be accused of membership in FETÖ.

The complaint was based on Musk’s tweet posted on January 7 in which he said “Use Signal.” The tweet arrived after WhatsApp announced a new privacy policy covering how it can share user data with Facebook, a policy update that made headlines over concerns users will have almost no way to keep their WhatsApp data separate from Facebook — a company with a notorious record on digital privacy.

Although the court accepted Yılmaz’s complaint, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office dismissed it on July 5, saying there was no need to investigate a complaint when the act described is clearly understood to not constitute a crime.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group that focuses on science education, volunteerism, community involvement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue that is inspired by the teachings of Muslim preacher 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Signal is not the first encrypted messaging app the Gülenists are accused of using. Turkish authorities maintain that the ByLock app is used exclusively by members of the Gülen movement. Thousands of people have faced terrorism charges, with the presence of the app on their phones cited as evidence.

The app’s U.S. citizen license holder, who was arrested in Turkey in July, faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of membership in the faith-based group.

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