48 suspects arrested over FETÖ links

Published 21.07.2019 00:28

Turkish authorities arrested 48 people on Friday for their suspected links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

In the western city of İzmir, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 52 noncommissioned officers of the Turkish Air Force for their alleged links to FETÖ. The suspects were also accused of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app developed and used exclusively by the terrorist group. Twenty other suspects were captured in operations in 12 cities, while a manhunt was underway to capture the others.

Security sources said one of the suspects had ties to Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz. Adil Öksüz, originally a lecturer of theology, is accused of planning the coup attempt with the Peace at Home Council made up of FETÖ-linked generals and other high-ranking officers. He is currently on the Interior Ministry's Most Wanted list, with a TL 4 million bounty on his head, for tips leading to his capture.

Öksüz was first detained just outside Akıncı Air Base, a military base in the capital Ankara after the coup attempt was foiled. The base was sort of a command center for the putschists with warplanes taking off from there striking strategic locations. However, hours after his detention, a court controversially ordered his release with judicial control. He was last seen in Sakarya, the northwestern city where he taught at a university, before his disappearance.

Months of manhunts across Turkey failed to catch him and the authorities concluded that he fled abroad. Referred to as FETÖ's "black box" for his intricate ties to senior cadres and prominent role in the coup attempt, Öksüz reportedly was the Air Force "imam" or the handler for the terrorist group. Kemal Batmaz, who, like Öksüz, was captured at Akıncı base, remains jailed for his role in the coup attempt, as one of FETÖ's senior civilian members executing the coup attempt.

Batmaz, whose interactions with putschists at Akıncı base was captured on security camera footage, has denied his role in the coup attempt and claimed he had no links to FETÖ. However, he was sentenced to 19 days in solitary confinement for terror propaganda on Friday after he was caught handing notes in a hearing to fellow defendants. Batmaz was trying to smuggle the note, which was addressed to Fetullah Gülen, the leader of the terrorist group; the note asked him to pray for Batmaz, out of prison with the assistance of fellow coup attempt suspects, the authorities said.

Separately, Istanbul prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 68 suspects accused of using ByLock, and 28 were arrested when Daily Sabah went to print, according to security sources. A probe into ByLock started prior to the 2016 coup attempt. However, they gained significance after the attempt. Authorities had deciphered messages revealing secret correspondents pointing to an imminent coup in operations after the coup bid. The Interior Ministry recently announced that 4,676 new ByLock users were detected in the investigation that already identified more than 95,000 users.

FETÖ is accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016 coup attempt through its infiltrators in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). A total of 251 people were killed and nearly 2,200 others were injured when putschists tried to seize power. Turkey detained or arrested tens of thousands of people following the coup attempt for their links to the terrorist group.

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