A court in the Turkish capital Ankara handed down a prison term of seven years and six months yesterday to Selman Gülen, nephew of Fetullah Gülen, fugitive leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The suspect was arrested last year along with 60 others during police operations targeting "gaybubet" (absence) houses of the terrorist group. The houses are known to be hideouts for fugitive members of the group following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt orchestrated by military infiltrators of FETÖ.
Selman Gülen was accused of membership of a terrorist group. He has denied his links to the group and claimed he was charged just because he was a nephew of Fetullah Gülen, who currently lives in the United States. Judge Bahtiyar Çolak told him in the final hearing that he was not accused based on being the nephew of Gülen but for "membership of FETÖ" in the light of evidence, including the use of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used by the terrorist group.
FETÖ is accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people, by using officers loyal to Gülen.
The terrorist group, which posed as the religious "Hizmet" (Service) Movement for decades, had attempted to seize power in multiple coup attempts over the past five 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, from money laundering to orchestrating sham trials to imprisoning critics and conspiring against anyone opposing FETÖ.
FETÖ is accused of planting its members in the police, judiciary, army and bureaucracy. Disguising their ties to the group, followers managed to rise to the top ranks of these fields. They became generals in the army and senior police chiefs. Through "imams," FETÖ monitored the infiltrators and gave them orders. Imams are often unassuming figures, such as a shopkeeper in a small town or a teacher, but they held immense power within the group, commanding police chiefs, generals and high-ranking bureaucrats.
Thousands were detained or arrested in a post-coup crackdown against FETÖ while thousands of others were dismissed from their public sector jobs. Coup trials are underway across Turkey and several military officers have been sentenced to life for their role in the insurrection bid.