[UPDATE] Greek police rescue 17 Turkish migrants in danger of freezing to death

The Greek police rescued 17 Turkish asylum seekers, including five children and four women, who crossed the Evros River from Turkey to Greece and were in danger of freezing to death, after the group made urgent calls for help, Turkish Minute reported.

According to Cevheri Güven’s story, following the pleas of the migrants, which circulated on social media and were amplified by Turkish journalists in exile, the stranded group shared a video showing a boat steered by Greek officers and said they were being rescued.

Hasan Bal, one of the asylum seekers who fled to Greece due to the politically motivated cases against them, told Turkish Minute that the weather was freezing cold and that the condition of those in the group, especially the children, was terrible.

Bal also said some migrants fell into the water and got drenched while crossing the river and therefore were more affected by the cold, and that they were about to run out of food.

Stating that there were teachers, engineers and public servants in their group, Bal said all of them were facing politically motivated cases in Turkey, except for the children.

“These cases were launched due to [our] links to the Gülen movement. For example, my sentences have been upheld [by higher courts]. We’re facing such penalties as seven years or 15 years [in prison]. We request political asylum in Greece. The children in our group may lose their lives if help doesn’t arrive at once,” he said.

Indicating that they had all the evidence regarding the political cases against them, Bal also asked human rights organizations and rescue teams to come to their aid as soon as possible.

Saying that he had heard about recent pushbacks from Greece, Bal said if they also faced a similar situation, they would be kept behind bars in Turkey for long years, and that they, therefore, would hope for courtesy from the Greek people and government.

Yalçın Toker, the English teacher in the group, also explained their current situation in a video he recorded, calling on Greek authorities to provide them with urgent humanitarian help.

“The weather is terribly cold. We need urgent humanitarian help. We don’t have enough food or water. Two of our group fell into the river, and they’re shivering now. We would be grateful if you could help us, please,” Toker said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.

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