Lenient sentences in exchange for information and the collapse of the once-powerful network of infiltrators have contributed to an increase in the number of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members confessing their ties to the group. The number of those pleading guilty to charges of FETÖ membership and confessions to collaborate with authorities has risen to 487 in Istanbul alone.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office announced the number regarding the investigations into the secretive group's military infiltrators. Though FETÖ, which promoted itself as a charity group with religious motives is known for two disguised coup attempts in 2013. It attempted its most brutal takeover bid in 2016. Some 251 people were killed and thousands of others injured when FETÖ-linked military officers took to the streets on July 15, 2016, to seize power and kill the country's leaders. Strong resistance by the people, rallied by the president, ultimately thwarted the putsch bid and multiple investigations were launched to capture the perpetrators. Tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested for links to FETÖ and operations are still underway to capture fugitive suspects.
Istanbul prosecutors said the number of military officers and civilians who invoked the "remorse law" was 487 in investigations into FETÖ members' communication with soldiers via public payphones since November 2017. Those who confess their ties and give substantial information to prosecutors to uncover FETÖ's other members are being handed light sentences and are sometimes released under judiciary control. Around 1,182 others captured in operations have been remanded in custody.
A noncommissioned officer, identified with his initials as A.O.S., was among the 487 FETÖ members who invoked the remorse law and gave an account of his years in FETÖ. He said the terrorist group helped in the "promotion" of cadets more obedient to them to officers and those "not following them strictly" were "made" noncommissioned officers.
FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration in the military that helped them scheme at military schools to expel anyone refusing to join them. "They valued those who would drink alcohol when [FETÖ] ordered them and would commit adultery when they were ordered by [FETÖ] to do so," A.O.S. told interrogators. Former members say the terrorist group circumvented the army's strict and informal rules in the past that aimed to weed out those abstaining from alcohol for religious reasons by forcing its followers to drink alcohol. A.O.S. added that the terrorist group would often illegally obtain questions and answers to military school exams to help in the promotion of officers and cadets loyal to them; if they failed, they would find ways to appoint their men as supervisors to interviews for military promotion. Thus, they would be able to reject any cadets they interviewed and deemed an obstacle for FETÖ infiltration in the army.A.Ö., another officer who also invoked the remorse law, said he was introduced to the group while he was still a cadet and said the group would contact him at least once a month. He added that each infiltrator would be appointed a handler by FETÖ and the handler would call them through landline payphones. "I severed my ties with [FETÖ] in 2013 but they kept harassing me. They even threatened me with having me fired from my job," he said.
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