Security forces detained 20 people yesterday in nationwide operations against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Prosecutors in Istanbul issued detention warrants for 60 suspects in 14 cities and operations were underway when Daily Sabah went to print.
Media reported that the suspects were users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app used by the terrorist group. Detentions came after Turkish intelligence deciphered the suspects' correspondence on ByLock.
In a verdict that will have an impact on dozens of ongoing trials and investigations, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled last month that ByLock, believed to be developed or at least modified by members of FETÖ, is sufficient enough to be used as the lone piece of evidence to indicate a suspect's link to the group accused of carrying out the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The ruling says ByLock was a network exclusive to the terrorist group's members, and it justified for this reason to be counted as the sole evidence to show one's link to FETÖ.
Most of the defendants in cases related to FETÖ claim they used the app, which is no longer available, to simply chat with friends, while some say they accidentally downloaded it. Some defendants argue it might not constitute credible evidence as the suspects' ByLock correspondence was deciphered by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
ByLock was first widely heard of publicly after last year's bloody coup attempt that killed 249 people. FETÖ is accused of masterminding the coup attempt through infiltrators in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The messaging app was used by FETÖ long before the coup attempt, investigators say. Teams of IT experts now work to decipher 1 million messages between members of the terrorist group. They have managed to decode 18 million messages so far. However, the remaining 1 million messages reportedly contain "critical" orders or instructions to the group's followers from senior FETÖ figures.
ByLock was discovered during criminal inquiries into the terrorist group whose criminal activities have been in the spotlight since two coup attempts in 2013. MİT uncovered the messaging app, apparently programmed or modified for use by the group's members, by someone linked to FETÖ. According to recent media reports, police intelligence linked to the terrorist group was behind the app. FETÖ-linked staff working in a powerful intelligence department of the National Police were the architects of the app or rather its modification to serve the purposes of the group. A group of intelligence officers are accused of controlling the private app used to deliver FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen's messages to followers, as well as to instruct the group's members on how to carry out plots against anti-Gülenists.
Investigations show that 95 out of the first 100 people who downloaded and installed the app were police intelligence personnel, and the other five were employees of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). TÜBİTAK was the target of mass infiltration by Gülenists in the past, and it is believed that the original developers of the app are linked to this state-run institution.
The ByLock investigation was expanded after the coup attempt and thousands of people accused of using the messaging app for communicating Gülen's messages to subordinates and for terrorist propaganda have been detained or arrested.
Servers of the app in Lithuania were brought to Turkey where teams from the intelligence service work to decode them.
Turkish authorities so far have detected more than 100,000 people who downloaded the app and used it for correspondence. Prosecutors launched investigations and thousands, ranging from shopkeepers to high-ranking generals and bureaucrats, housewives and prominent businesspeople, have been detained for exchanging messages over ByLock for acts of terrorism.
The messages deciphered, including those urging FETÖ members to help the coup plotters, point to the app as one of the most employed means of communication in the secretive group. Other encrypted messaging apps were used after the authorities discovered ByLock.
The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office and MİT are coordinating the investigation into the encrypted messages that will help investigations into FETÖ as well as finding the group's members disguising themselves.
The terrorist group, which posed as the religious Hizmet (Service) movement for decades, had moved to seize power in multiple coup attempts over the past four years when the government moved to curb its widespread clout in Turkey. Since then, a string of investigations disclosed that Gülenists were involved in a wide array of crimes ranging from money laundering to orchestrating sham trials to imprison critics and conspiring against anyone opposing it.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.