47 detained over alleged Gülen links in ‘payphone investigation’

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Turkish police have detained 47 people including active duty and former military officers as well as former military cadets due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement based on payphone call records, according to the Bold Medya news website.

The detentions took place across 16 provinces as part an operation based in the western province of İzmir. Sixteen former military cadets who have just reached the age of 18 are among the suspects. The cadets were expelled from the military academy in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016.

The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The accusations against the suspects include secretly communicating with their contacts within the movement via payphones. The detention warrants were issued based on lists drafted by the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detailing people who used payphones.

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.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war on the Gülen movement after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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