2 former MİT officials trying to flee persecution in Turkey detained at Greek border

Turkish security forces on Monday detained two former officials from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) who were dismissed from their jobs by government decree under a now-ended state of emergency over alleged links to the Gülen movement, in Edirne province as they were allegedly trying to flee to Greece to escape persecution in Turkey.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the detainees were identified as Ebubekir E. (35) and Yasir U. (29), both of whom were the subjects of outstanding detention warrants.

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 asylum applications.

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.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of the coup attempt. Many have tried to flee Turkey illegally as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

One hundred fifty-four people have been detained over alleged Gülen links while trying to flee Turkey by illegally crossing the Bulgarian or Greek border since the 2016 coup attempt, online news outlet Diken reported on August 14, 2018.

Turks attempting to flee Turkey and reach Europe has been a new phenomenon since the coup attempt. Some of them, including children, died in the Aegean Sea or the Evros River in their effort to escape persecution.

More than 16,640 people succeeded in crossing the border in 2017 and applied for asylum in the 28 EU countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland, according to European Asylum Support Office (EASO) data. The data also indicate that there has been a 30 percent increase in Turkish asylum seekers in 2018.

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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