The Istanbul Prosecutor's Office has accused a lawyer with links to the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ) of being responsible for arranged marriages among FETÖ members and of using her pregnancy as a tool to be released from prison while pending trial.
The indictment against lawyer Özge Elif Hendekçi claims she purposefully got pregnant to be able to leave prison or at the least, get some leniency from the court if detained. Hendekçi's case is part of the investigation into lawyers linked to the terrorist group. She faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
A tip led investigators to Hendekçi, who is accused of being a FETÖ member, staying at FETÖ houses and using the encrypted messaging app ByLock. Hendekçi was detained on Aug. 17 last year and released a week later pending trial.
An investigation showed that the lawyer used a telephone registered to her mother. She started to use ByLock after downloading it on Dec. 26, 2014. The indictment also contains testimonies corroborating Hendekçi's FETÖ membership, praise of FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen and use of ByLock.
Hendekçi denied any links to FETÖ and claimed she has never used ByLock.
The indictment notes that during many criminal operations, investigators found that many female suspects were pregnant, leading the prosecutor's office to come to the conclusion that the group used pregnancy as a way to escape prison.
Investigators say the same is true in Hendekçi's case. She got married on Jan. 22, 2017, and divorced a month-and-a-half later, on March 10. Her pregnancy forced law enforcement agencies to impose strict limitations on her prosecution, the indictment says, adding that they believe FETÖ wants to use such cases to accuse Turkey of mistreating expecting mothers.
FETÖ, a criminal enterprise founded by fugitive Fetullah Gülen, has been directly implicated in the December 2013 judicial coup attempt and the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt against the democratically elected government of Turkey. With its media and business arms, the terrorist group created significant public clout, which was augmented by infiltration into state institutions, principally the judiciary, police and military. Many of its most senior members fled abroad on the eve or soon after the coup attempt in 2016.
Dating back to the 1960s, FETÖ was the brainchild of Gülen who served as a primary school educated imam before founding the group, which has always acted as a secretive cult.
The 1970s and 1980s were spent consolidating the group, creating the necessary education and financial structure, while slowly infiltrating state institutions. Its schools and prep schools served as the main recruiting ground for the group, which assigned particular degrees and vocations to its members.
Its leadership hierarchy was hidden from the public, apart from Gülen himself. FETÖ, like many terrorist groups, created a structure based on individual cells within various state organizations, like the judiciary, police and military.
Cells of various sizes were each organized around an imam, often an academic or police officer. It was normal practice for FETÖ member generals, prosecutors and judges to receive orders from an academic or teacher. Group hierarchy always trumped civilian hierarchy.
Over the years, FETÖ transformed into a behemoth, with finance, business, education and media arms spread across the globe. It has charter schools in the U.S., mainly used to collect and siphon federal funds into various FETÖ projects, while its schools in the rest of the world are usually used for recruiting.
Gülen is viewed as a sort of messiah by his followers, according to former members.
ByLock was discovered during criminal inquiries into the terrorist group whose activities have been under the spotlight since two judicial coup attempts in 2013. The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) uncovered the messaging app apparently programmed - or modified for exclusive use of the group's members - by someone linked to FETÖ.
The FETÖ-linked staff working in the intelligence department of the police department 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 Gülen's messages to his 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 personnel of police intelligence and the other five people were employees of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). TÜBİTAK was the target of mass infiltration by FETÖ in the past, and it is believed that the original developers of the application 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 pro-terrorism propaganda have been detained or arrested.
Servers of the app deployed in Lithuania were brought to Turkey where teams from the intelligence service work to decode. Prosecutors launched investigations and thousands, ranging from shopkeepers to high-ranking generals and bureaucrats, housewives and prominent businesspeople, were detained for exchanging messages via ByLock for acts of terror.
Most of the defendants claim they "accidentally" downloaded the app and never used it, while others claim they did not use it for FETÖ messages. However, the messages, including those urging FETÖ members to help the coup plotters who killed 249 people in 2016's coup attempt, point out that the app was one of the most employed means of communication in the secretive group.
Before the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, ByLock was removed from Google Play Store, as well as Apple's store, however, its services were open for access. ByLock was popular among FETÖ members between 2013 and 2015. After 2015, the cult turned to Eagle IM, which offers "256-bit end-to-end AES encryption," according to the app's description on its Google Play Store page.
While the majority of downloaders of Bylock were associated with FETÖ and used it to communicate with each other, some 11,000 Bylock users had downloaded the app involuntarily. Judicial officials were told to use supporting evidence, such as links to FETÖ's financial institution Bank Asya, testimonies of witnesses, and not to prosecute based solely on the presence of Bylock on cell phones.
FETÖ is known to encourage arranged marriages among its members. Hendekçi's ByLock communication showed that she was one of FETÖ's matchmakers.
Anadolu Agency (AA) released several ByLock messages written by Hendekçi that show that she was deeply involved in the terrorist group's matchmaking activities.
"This girl is very nice. However, she has obviously aged a bit. She needs to get married."
"Would she remove her headscarf? Özge, it will be hard if she doesn't."
"There is a disciple in Ankara. They'll speak with his superior. What do you think?"
"I'm sending you a victim."
"I will be sending you details on the height, weight and a photo."
"Occupation doesn't matter as long as he has served the cause."
"Brunette would be better, if he has a choice."