On the sixth anniversary of a controversial coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, the Turkish government continues to use emergency powers as well as the country’s overly broad and vague anti-terror laws to maintain its repressive control of the people. According to a statement from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, 559,332 people have been investigated or prosecuted in the last six years for terrorism over their links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt, although the movement denies any involvement. While 116,702 people have so far been convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, 115,714 are still being investigated or standing trial. According to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, 332,884 people were arrested over their alleged links to the Gülen movement between July 16, 2016 and June 20, 2022, with more than 101,000 put in pretrial detention and 104,000 subjected to judicial supervision.
The government has deployed a set of variables to accuse and prosecute those people for membership in a terrorist organization under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code. These variables include (i) being a depositor at Bank Asya, a now-defunct Gülen-affiliated financial institution; (ii) being a shareholder in companies that have been dissolved/seized under a state of emergency declared after the failed coup for alleged Gülen links; (iii) using the ByLock messaging app, considered by Turkish authorities a secret tool of communication among members of the Gülen movement; (iv) police or intelligence agency reports; (v) analysis of social media activity and websites visited; (vi) donations made to relief organizations with alleged Gülen links; (vii) being a resident or student in dormitories or schools that were closed down under the state of emergency for alleged Gülen links; (viii) sending children to those schools that were subsequently shuttered; (ix) subscription to Gülen-linked publications; (x) information received from colleagues or neighbors; and (xi) being a manager, employee or member of a trade union, association, foundation or company closed/dissolved/seized under the state of emergency for alleged Gülen links.
Malicious prosecution is defined as the initiation of a criminal prosecution with malice and without probable cause. All those cases are literally malicious prosecutions since the set of variables used to prosecute hundreds of thousands of people are no more than details of everyday life and were absolutely lawful at the material time.
Indeed, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has so far found that pretrial detention based on those criteria is not sufficient to convince an objective observer of the existence of reasonable suspicion for being a member of a criminal organization.
Although Turkish courts are acting as willing executioners of the executive branch and no longer care or give credence to human rights conventions, constitutional principles or the law, when the victims are heard by the ECtHR and UN rights bodies, they are constantly being vindicated. It, therefore, proves the need for maintaining hope and continuing the fight for justice.