Ankara prosecutor orders arrest of 60 legal professionals in Gülen investigation

The Ankara police’s anti-terror unit has started an operation on Friday to detain 48 lawyers and 12 other legal professionals, following the Turkish capital’s chief public prosecutor issuing warrants, his office said in a statement.

The legal professionals are wanted on terrorism charges over their alleged ties to FETÖ, the name Turkey uses for the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen who it holds responsible for the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

The 48 lawyers, 7 intern lawyers, 4 dismissed judges and one law school graduate in question had taken on as clients people who were facing trial for FETÖ membership at various levels, “upon orders from the organisation,” the statement said, without revealing any evidence for the allegations.

The suspects are accused of skewing the investigations “in favour of FETÖ under the guise of lawyerly activity,” the statement said, based on informant statements, communications surveillance “and other evidence obtained.” Anonymous informants and secret witnesses are one of the most often used sources for launching cases and convicting defendants in Turkey.

“Hard not to see this as a part of (the Turkish government’s) aim to bring the legal profession under control,” Human Rights Watch Turkey Director Emma Sinclair-Webb said in a tweet, “and target lawyers on the basis of which clients they represent.” 

Meanwhile, daily Milliyet reported 22 arrests in another operation to purge remaining FETÖ members from the armed forces. Evidence against the detainees included the use of instant messaging program ByLock. Several among them were military academy students. Eleven other people connected to the Turkish armed forces were detained in a separate operation based in the central Anatolian Konya province.

The aftermath of July 15 saw more than 130,000 public servants dismissed in waves of purges. Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) completed investigations into 688 members of the judiciary in January, signalling a new wave, while it announced a total of 3,926 judges and prosecutors dismissed since the failed putsch.