Turkey detained over 8,000 people on Gülen links in past 11 months: minister

Turkish police have detained 8️,1️5️3 people across the country in the past 11 months over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, Turkey’s interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, announced on X on Friday.

According to the minister, the police carried out a total of 5️,19️1 operations against people with alleged ties to the movement between June 1, 2023 and May 15, 2024, with courts arresting 1️,5️1️8 of the suspects and releasing 1,7️5️1️ under judicial supervision measures.

Yerlikaya also said 45 of the suspects were detained as part of operations conducted in 18 provinces across Turkey in the last four days, including people who were involved in the movement’s alleged infiltration of the police as well as those who were determined to have used the ByLock messaging application and those whose sentences over Gülen links were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals and were at large.

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group outlawed by Ankara, since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

The Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Turkey routinely detains and arrests individuals for providing financial support to the families of people who were expelled from public service via decree-laws, who were in prison due to alleged links to the Gülen movement or who were just released.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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 in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

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