A Turkish American man who Turkey says was behind a messaging app linked to the country's 2016 failed military coup has been arrested in Istanbul months after saying he planned to cooperate with authorities.
David Keynes, who Turkish authorities allege holds the license for the ByLock messaging app, was taken into custody last month at Istanbul’s main airport after turning himself in to authorities, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing Turkish state-run news outlet the Anadolu Agency.
The Turkish news agency said that Keynes has been charged with membership in a terror organization, which holds a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Keynes’s lawyers had previously said that their client hoped to cooperate with Turkish authorities under the country’s “repentance law,” which allows individuals to receive less severe punishments in exchange for providing assistance to law enforcement.
Turkey has argued that the ByLock app had been used by members of the network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkish authorities have long accused of leading an alleged effort to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
While Gulen has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, Erdoğan has used the coup to impose a years-long state of emergency, cracking down on opposition voices and arresting thousands of people with alleged ties to Gulen’s movement.
The AP reported Wednesday that roughly 4,900 people have been sentenced to prison since the failed coup, with about 3,000 given life sentences.
Additionally, more than 130,000 people, including 20,000 military personnel, have been let go from public service jobs, according to the AP.
In May, the Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish authorities had detained Selahaddin Gulen, Fethullah Gulen’s nephew, and charged him with alleged terrorist organization membership.
While Turkey for years has sought the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, U.S. officials have resisted these efforts, with the White House in 2018 denying reports that the Trump administration was examining whether to comply with extradition requests.