Authorities on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for 12 suspects linked to the Gülenist terrorist group (FETÖ). Operations are underway in the western province of Izmir and Istanbul to capture the suspects.
They are wanted as part of an investigation by the General Prosecutor’s Office in Izmir. The suspects were allegedly users of Bylock, an encrypted messaging app developed and exclusively used by the terrorist group.
In 2020, Turkey’s highest court ruled that Bylock was sufficient evidence of any accused’s connection to the terror group in the trials of FETÖ suspects. Since then, more and more people have been convicted of links to the group.
ByLock was uncovered during criminal investigations into the terror group, whose criminal activities have come under the spotlight since two coup attempts in 2013. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) uncovered the app. messaging programmed or modified for the exclusive use of group members by someone. linked to FETÖ.
According to media reports, personnel linked to FETÖ working in a powerful Turkish national police intelligence service were the “architects” of the application, or rather its modification to serve the group’s objectives. A group of intelligence officers have been accused of controlling the private app used to deliver Gülen’s messages to his followers, as well as instructing members of the group on how to carry out plots against anti-Gülenists . Surveys show that 95 out of the first 100 people who downloaded and installed the app were police intelligence personnel and the remaining five were employees of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK). The TÜBITAK has been the target of massive infiltration by Gülenists in the past and it is believed that the app’s original developers were linked to this state-run institution. Application servers deployed in Lithuania have been brought to Turkey, where intelligence service teams are working to decode them.
Most of the defendants claim to have “accidentally” downloaded the app and never used it, while others claim not to have used it for FETÖ messages. However, the posts, including those urging FETÖ members to help the coup plotters, show that the app was one of the most used means of communication in the secretive group. FETÖ members then used other encrypted messaging apps after authorities discovered the use of ByLock.
Last year, an American citizen of Turkish descent, licensee of the original version of Bylock, turned himself in to Turkish authorities and confessed his ties to FETÖ.
The terror group came under increased scrutiny after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, its deadliest attempt to seize power. Following the attack, in which the terrorist group’s military infiltrators killed 251 people, countless operations were carried out to bring the putschists and other FETÖ members to justice. Tens of thousands have been arrested or detained as operations continue against law enforcement, judiciary, military and bureaucratic infiltrators who have so far managed to hide their links with the terrorist group.