More confessions have revealed how the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) benefited from secrecy in its affairs and worked its way to seize power in the country with a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
A suspect jailed for his role in the attempt joined dozens of others who have confessed their links to the group. He told authorities that FETÖ members developed and used encrypted software to communicate with each other.
The suspect, identified with his initials İ.T., was among 164 defendants accused of carrying out the coup attempt at the Land Forces Military Academy. He is among legions of FETÖ's infiltrators in the military.
Turkey has arrested thousands following the coup attempt that left 249 people dead. Investigations revealed that the terrorist group, which otherwise poses as a charity group with religious undertones, managed its infiltrators in the army through point men known as "imams."
Investigators say that a group member infiltrated in the military would not know if another officer was also an infiltrator in some cases.
According to İ.T.'s confessions, FETÖ kept information about its infiltrators in memory cards encrypted with software developed by computer engineers loyal to the group.
"They once gave me a memory stick. It has an operating system hidden inside a Linux system. It does not leave any trace on the hard drive of the computer you plugged it into. I used it a couple of times. (Fellow FETÖ members) told me it was developed by 'our brothers in computer engineering'," he said.
He said that "imams" who handle group's infiltrators in the military had digital data on their activities and it was stored in SD memory cards encrypted with software called "truecrypt".
İ.T. said he was first introduced to the terrorist group while he was a high school student and stayed in houses run by the group where FETÖ members delivered lectures and helped them study for university admission exams.
His "elder brother" (a term used for FETÖ members handling young recruits) was a prison guard. While at military school, he regularly attended "house meetings" of the group's members, including with a retired and an on-duty officer.
Throughout his military career, FETÖ kept tabs on İ.T. His handlers changed and he reported to them regularly. Some of his handlers were military officers like him or civilians like a teacher who served as a point man for the group.
İ.T. also confessed that he donated money to the terrorist group. His last contact with his handlers was before the 2016 coup attempt and İ.T. claimed they did not discuss anything about an imminent putsch bid.
Authorities are now investigating the names he gave in his confessions.
FETÖ is accused of orchestrating multiple coup attempts in Turkey and its members face terrorism charges. According to prosecutors, the group used its infiltrators in the military to run the coup attempt, overseen by its non-military point men.
Led by its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen, the group long disguised itself as a religious charity before it moved to seize power in Turkey with two coup attempts in 2013 using its infiltrators in law enforcement and the judiciary.
After the 2013 attempts, Turkey designated it as a national threat and escalated a crackdown on the group.
With his terrorist group going through a period of decline, Fetullah Gülen has turned his fiery rhetoric on former followers. In a recently released videotaped speech, he said that former members who are confessing to their crimes are "apostates".
In return for lenient sentences, Gülenists are cooperating with authorities to help uncover the secretive group's nationwide network. In his latest video, Gülen says his followers should "prefer being tortured" instead of cooperating with authorities and "this way, they can be the recipient of God's blessing, otherwise they "will be apostates under Islam even if they pray 10 times a day."
Although confessions from former members were commonplace before and after the 2016 coup attempt, the number of the group's infiltrators in the military who have turned themselves in has seen a sudden increase in the past months.
The most high-profile among them is Burak Akın, a guard for the former Land Forces commander, Gen. Yaşar Güler. Akın, who disguised himself in the military for a long time, was hailed as a hero when he was injured while he was allegedly resisting putschist soldiers during the 2016 coup attempt. Surprisingly, he turned himself into authorities and confessed that he was introduced to the terrorist group before his military career started.
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