Ankara (AFP): Turkish prosecutors issued arrest warrants on Friday for 189 judges and prosecutors over suspected links with the US-based Islamic cleric accused of ordering the failed July coup, state media reported.
The warrants issued by the Ankara public prosecutor claimed that they used an encrypted messaging app, ByLock, which the Turkish authorities say was employed by followers of the movement, the official Anadolu news agency said.
Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen is accused by Ankara of masterminding the coup bid from his Pennsylvania compound, using his followers in state institutions in Turkey in a bid to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999, strongly denies the charges.
According to the agency, detentions are sought for suspects who work in the justice ministry, courts across Turkey as well as the Supreme Court.
Some 30 of those sought work in Istanbul, the agency said, while police have already detained three judges and prosecutors at the Ankara courthouse, NTV broadcaster reported.
A day earlier, 184 judges and prosecutors were suspended by the Turkish Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) because they used the app, Anadolu reported.
In total, the board has suspended nearly 3,500 judges and prosecutors since the putsch for links with the movement, the agency said.
Ankara has said that ByLock was used to coordinate the putsch and share secret messages.
But officials say that since May 2015, the country’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) had begun to decrypt messages sent on the app.
Officials say that this meant that in the aftermath of the coup, they were able to identify tens of thousands of Gulen followers, including ranking military personnel.
The purge within Turkey’s public sector has continued apace with 2,400 teachers suspended by the education ministry as part of the investigation into the movement on Thursday, Anadolu reported.
Tens of thousands within the military, education sector, judiciary and media have been arrested, detained or sacked since the coup bid in a crackdown which has caused concern among Turkey’s Western allies including the European Union.
Brussels has urged Turkey to act within the rule of law while activists accuse Ankara of using a state of emergency to repress opponents and not just those linked to the Gulen movement.
Some 32,000 people have been arrested under the emergency imposed after the coup, which was extended this month for another 12 weeks.