16 people trying to flee persecution in Turkey to Greek island detained by police

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Turkish police detained 16 people, including four children, on Sunday in the Ayvalık district in western Balıkesir province over their alleged membership in the Gülen movement as they were reportedly trying to flee to Greece to escape the persecution of the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish police detained 16 people — seven men, five women and four children — near Lale Island in Ayvalık after they received a tip that a group of people was trying to flee the country to the Greek island of Mytilene in the Aegean Sea.

The detainees reportedly include two police officers, three military officers and a prison guard who were dismissed from their jobs by government decrees under a now-ended state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

A total of 3,189 Turkish nationals have arrived in Greece and applied for asylum in the last two years, according to Greek Immigration Ministry data. The figure, which surged after a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, was around 100 in the three-year period prior to the abortive putsch.

In July alone, 687 Turks applied for asylum in Greece, while more Turks were trying to reach Western Europe to lodge an asylum application.

The Turkish government started a crackdown after the controversial coup attempt that led to the dismissal of nearly 140,000 civil servants and investigations into some 400,000 citizens on “terrorism” charges.

The government accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating the failed putsch, although the movement strongly denies any involvement. In the last two years, 550 people have been detained and more than 7,000 passports have been confiscated by security at İstanbul Atatürk Airport over Gülen links.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government detained 13 military personnel on Sunday in 10 provinces across Turkey as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The detainees in Ankara, Burdur, Eskişehir, Bitlis, Şanlıurfa, Kastamonu, İzmir, Ağrı and Bursa provinces, part of an Isparta-based investigation targeting alleged members of the movement, include five lieutenants, five noncommissioned officers and three former military cadets who were dismissed by government decrees over their alleged links to the movement.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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