Use of ByLock by justice minister’s brother went unpunished: report

News About Turkey - NAT
3 Min Read

Unlike thousands of people in Turkey, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç’s brother Yahya did not face any punishment for using the ByLock smartphone application, benefitting from the effective remorse law, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Monday.

According to Gazete Duvar, the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court ruled on Feb. 25, 2021 there was no need to sentence Yahya Tunç to prison, citing the fact that he had turned himself in and gave information to the authorities regarding the accusations against him voluntarily. He benefited from the repentance provision under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The court reportedly rendered the decision despite the prosecution accusing Tunç of being a member of a terrorist organization and stating that his turning himself in did not fall within the scope of “effective remorse.”

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the faith-based Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. They intensified the crackdown on the movement following the 2016 coup attempt, which they accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Detentions for alleged ByLock use continued despite a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that found the use of ByLock not to constitute a criminal offense.

The ECtHR ruled in July 2021 in the case of former police officer Tekin Akgün that the use of the ByLock application is not an offense in itself and does not constitute sufficient evidence for an arrest. The Strasbourg court’s ruling came as a source of hope for thousands of people who were arrested or sentenced on terrorism charges based mainly on a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) report that detailed users of ByLock. However, detentions and arrests based on ByLock use continued unabated in Turkey.

The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in October 2018 that detention, arrest and conviction based on ByLock use in Turkey violated Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Source: Turkish Minute

Share This Article
Leave a comment