FETÖ suspect behind criminal app fled to Germany

YÜKSEL TEMEL
ISTANBUL
Published 04.06.2019 00:12

Turkey will seek the extradition of Mesut Yılmazer from Germany after the software developer, who is a member of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), fled there following a controversial court ruling. Yılmazer is accused of working on the development of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app that the terrorist group conceived for secret communications between its members.

Yılmazer, who was tried on terror charges by an Ankara court, was released on March 19. Prosecutors objected to his release and an arrest warrant was issued again for the suspect three days after his release. Authorities failed to locate him in Turkey and it was later discovered that Yılmazer and his family illegally crossed into Greece and traveled to Germany from there. Turkey is now preparing to draft an extradition request for Yılmazer from Germany where the suspect's brother lives. Apart from his work on ByLock, Yılmazer was a senior figure for FETÖ, in charge of the terrorist group's infiltrators in the state-run Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) as well as district governors loyal to the group.

FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration in government agencies, law enforcement, judiciary and military. Tens of thousands of suspects were dismissed from their public sector jobs, detained or arrested following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, which was carried out by the terrorist group's infiltrators in the military.

Yılmazer was captured in western city of Kütahya following the coup attempt and was charged with running a terrorist group, a charge specific to senior cadres of FETÖ. He spent about two years behind bars before his release. He claimed he was not affiliated with the group and denied his contacts with top names of the terrorist group.

Investigations into ByLock started prior to the 2016 coup attempt. However, they gained significance after the attempt that killed 251 people. Authorities had deciphered messages revealing secret messages pointing to an imminent coup in operations after the putsch bid. The Interior Ministry announced that 4,676 new ByLock users were detected in the investigation that already identified more than 95,000 users. More than 79,337 people faced a legal process in ByLock investigations.

A group of police intelligence officers are accused of controlling the private app used to deliver FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen's messages to his followers, as well as to instruct the group's members on how to carry out plots against anti-Gülenists. Servers of the app deployed in Lithuania were brought to Turkey where teams from the intelligence service work to decode it. Investigations point out that the app was one of the most employed means of communication in the secretive group. Other encrypted messaging apps were used by FETÖ members after the authorities discovered ByLock's use.

The terrorist group, which evolved from a congregation of Fetullah Gülen's followers, is accused of pursuing a sinister agenda by posing as a religious group with an emphasis on charity work for years. Investigations have revealed that the group was planting its men and women in every institution since at least the 1980s, from the army to law enforcement, from the judiciary to the bureaucracy, before its first coup attempts in 2013. Disguised with code names, secretive correspondences and a distinct secular lifestyle that is worlds away from what FETÖ promotes as religious life, its members easily infiltrated the places they ultimately aimed to take over.

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