On the sixth anniversary of a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, new official statistics have been released showing the extent of a witch hunt carried out by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against members of the Gülen movement, which the government declared a terrorist organization and claimed to have orchestrated the abortive coup.
According to the official figures, only 0.46 percent of people who were detained were convicted of involvement in the coup attempt. Some 20,000 people affiliated with the movement are still in prison.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that 332,884 people were detained between July 15, 2016 and June 20, 2022 during a panel discussion last week prior to the anniversary of the coup attempt. This means that 154 people a day were taken into custody by the police or gendarmerie. Again, as Soylu put it, 101,000 people were arrested, and judicial supervision was ordered for 104,000 people.
In the post-coup witch hunt climate, everyone who was allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whether civilian or military, began to be detained on terrorism charges. According to statistics published by the state-run Anadolu news agency on July 12, 117,208 people were convicted of affiliation with the Gülen movement, while 87,519 were acquitted of the charge. However, judicial experts voice skepticism about the number of people who have been acquitted of all charges by a court of law.”
According to Anadolu, 29,455 people are still at large. Most of these people left Turkey illegally on dangerous journeys and applied for political asylum, mostly in European countries. Members of the Gülen movement seek protection due to fear of arbitrary arrest, lack of a fair trial, torture and ill-treatment.
The most striking statistic in Anadolu’s report is the number of people sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, which lasts until the death of the convict and is enforced under strict security measures. Aggravated life was introduced to replace the death penalty, which was abolished in Turkey in 2004. Many European countries consider it justification for the rejection of Turkey’s extradition requests.
A total of 1,634 people have been sentenced to aggravated life since 2016, handed down for the crime of attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey. Military officers who allegedly participated in the coup attempt were for the most part given this sentence. In other words, only 0.46 percent of those detained on charges of terrorism or attempting to overthrow the government were found guilty of involvement in the coup attempt. Other defendants were convicted of membership in a terrorist organization.
Currently, 19,300 people are in prison, either in pretrial detention or as convicted prisoners for affiliation with the Gülen movement.
According to Anadolu, Turkey has requested the extradition of 1,133 people from 110 countries.
According to the updated figures, 24,339 military members have been dismissed from the service. The administrative process for removal is underway for 1,079 officers who will most likely be discharged in the coming months. In addition, 3,213 retired officers were stripped of their rank as if they had never served in the military.
However, figures published by the Turkish General Staff immediately after July 15, 2016 show that the number of officers involved in the coup was quite low. A total of 8,651 military members took part in the coup, corresponding to only 1.5 percent of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). Of those 1,761 were conscripts and 1,214 were military cadets. Given the fact that some 150 generals and thousands of lower-ranking officers were sentenced on coup charges, military experts find it odd that such an insignificant number of troops took part in the coup attempt.
Approximately five times the number of officers allegedly involved in the coup attempt have been expelled from the military. Neo-nationalist retired officers and political groups that support the government insistently claim that these officers attempted a coup in Turkey at the order of NATO and welcome the purges, given that they demand Turkey exit NATO.
Turkey is by far the leader in the number of prisoners convicted of terrorism in Europe according to the 2021 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations report, better known as SPACE I.
The report also shows how easily the Turkish government, which has been criticized by international human rights organizations and the United Nations for the implementation and scope of its anti-terror law, turns its citizens into terrorist convicts.
According to an analysis by Nordic Monitor based on SPACE I data, 32,006 people convicted of a terrorism-related crime are currently behind bars. Turkey hosts almost all prisoners convicted of terrorism in Europe. Turkey is followed by the Russian Federation with 1,026 prisoners, or 3.2 percent of the total number of terror prisoners. Spain is in third place with 195 inmates.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, 4,560 judges and prosecutors were dismissed and replaced by President Erdoğan loyalists, many of whom were barely out of college and others who were politicians in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). A total of 2,431 of the judges and prosecutors were detained on trumped-up charges. More than 130,000 public servants as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were removed from their jobs by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.