Hundreds of thousands investigated in one year for armed group links in Turkey

In a single year, Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations on almost half a million people suspected of links to illegal armed organisations, statistics released by the Turkish justice ministry.

“According to justice ministry statistics, investigations have been opened on 457,425 people alleged to be founders, directors or members of armed organisations by the definition of Turkish Criminal Code article 314,” Turkish scholar and activist Yaman Akdeniz wrote in a tweet on the statistics, which he gathered.

Only 65,308 cases brought forward according to this law have been dropped, Akdeniz said.

In 2016, over 155,000 investigations were started on the same basis, making the two-year total 612,347. The figures show a dramatic rise since the six previous years shown. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of investigations only exceeded 50,000 once, in the year 2014.

Turkey was governed under a state of emergency for two years, starting shortly after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government survived a coup attempt in July 2016.  

Hundreds of thousands have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs under the state of emergency, which granted security officers enhanced powers.

Many of those arrested have been charged with membership of the Gülen religious group, which is blamed for planning the coup attempt, while others have been accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

However, the government has been accused of using the state of emergency to target its critics and political opponents.

“‘The world doesn’t understand us.’ If you went around the entire world you wouldn’t find 457,000 people investigated for terror links,” tweeted human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak.

In just one year, if you take children out of the equation, you have opened investigations into almost one percent of the population. What exactly is it your expect to be understood, and by whom?” Altıparmak continued.

AKP officials have accused international critics of the recent crackdown of not understanding the unique threats Turkey faces from domestic and international enemies.

Further statistics reported by Akdeniz show that over 20,000 investigations began in 2017 for insulting the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, an infringement of article 299 of the criminal code.

Cases were started on the basis of 6,033 of these investigations, bringing the total of cases against those suspected of insulting Erdoğan in two years to 10,222.