Turkish female officer detained over Gülen links after Kardak visit with army chief
Mesut Hasan Benli – ANKARATurkey’s first female general candidate, Bilgehan Bülbül, has been detained upon her return from a recent visit to the Kardak islets, where she accompanied Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, on charges of being a member of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), who are widely believed to have been the perpetrators of the July 15 coup attempt.
Air Force Staff Lieutenant Colonel Bülbül was detained right after the visit, which she accompanied Akar, and commanders of the land, naval and air forces of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).
Bülbül was detained on Jan. 30 for allegedly being affiliated to FETÖ. She had previously been assigned to Akar’s secretariat after the thwarted coup attempt, according to recent details.
Her detention came after a series of testimonies heard in investigations launched by Ankara Chief Prosecutor Müslüm Canpolat into FETÖ’s “imams,” revealed she was linked to the putschists.
“Imam,” which traditionally refers to a religious public worker, is a term used by the Gülenist organization to mark local leadership.
In the investigation, a number of civilian “imams” and soldiers linked to the group were named as suspects in the case. According to the information obtained from sources at the prosecutor’s office, a civilian “imam,” whose name was kept hidden, said in his testimony that Bülbül’s husband, Air Force Staff Lieutenant Colonel Nail Bülbül, was connected to him and visited him from time-to-time. The confessor “imam” said Bülbül was also a member of FETÖ.
“Bilgehan Bülbül was meeting with a member of the movement,” he said.
After the testimony, Canpolat ordered the detention of five civilian “imams” and 10 soldiers, including the Bülbül couple.
It has also been determined that Nail Bülbül was one of the commanders who coordinated Turkish F-16 warplanes that took off from a military air base in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir and hit Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in al-Bab in northern Syria as a part of the Turkey-backed Euphrates Shield operation.
Nail Bülbül had been detained as part of a FETÖ investigation after the coup attempt, but had later been released due to insufficient evidence.
His wife, meanwhile, was not detained before. The detainees’ interrogations in the police headquarters are currently ongoing and are expected to be sent to the prosecutor’s office next week.
The islets, named Imia in Greek and Kardak in Turkish, are two small uninhabited rocks in the Aegean Sea, situated between the Greek island chain of the Dodecanese and the southwestern mainland coast of Turkey.
Greece and Turkey nearly went to war over the islets in 1996 in an escalation that resulted in both sides landing soldiers on an islet each.
The Jan. 29 incident came amid fresh tension between the two countries, after the Greek Supreme Court on Jan. 26 blocked the extradition of eight former army officers who had fled to Greece after the July 2016 coup attempt.
Meanwhile, a niece of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S. based Islamic preacher who is widely known to have been the mastermind of the coup attempt, identified only by the initials M.A.S., was arrested as part of a FETÖ investigation in the Turgutlu district of the Aegean province of Manisa. He was among four people who were arrested over the same investigation.
Elsewhere, a simultaneous operation in 25 provinces including Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir, Gaziantep and Konya were launched in order to apprehend a total of 177 police officers, who were also FETÖ suspects. The operation has been ongoing and the detainees are expected to be brought to police headquarters in Ankara.
In another incident, the Turkish High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) determined and suspended seven people in the judiciary who have been using ByLock, a mobile application used mostly by Gülenists. Kırşehir Heavy Penal Court Head Fatih Mehmet Aksoy, was one of them, and learned that he was suspended during a hearing where police officers who were tried over FETÖ were being held.