9 people trying to flee persecution in Turkey detained at Greek border

The Greek-Turkish border line right on the bridge over the river Evros, in Thrace region. The grey line on the road marks the exact point where the two countries meet.

Turkish security forces on Wednesday detained nine people in Edirne province near the Greek border over their alleged membership in the Gülen movement as they were reportedly trying to flee to Greece to escape persecution in Turkey.

Turkish police stopped a car in Edirne and detained five people on Wednesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The detainees, identified as A.T., B.T., B.K., İ.B. and H.A., are reportedly the subjects of outstanding detention warrants over their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application. It was also reported that a man identified as E.F.A. was also detained on accusations of human smuggling.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Also on Wednesday, Turkish gendarmerie teams detained police inspector H.B.T. (26), A.A. (33), Ü.G.B. (26) and R.B. (26) in the village of Saçlı Müsellim, located in the Uzunköprü district of Edirne province, over their alleged links to the movement as they were reportedly trying to flee to Greece.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, two members of the group jumped into the Evros River and succeeded in escaping from the gendarmes. Detention warrants are reportedly outstanding for these people, identified as S.C.Ç. (26) and Ö.S. (39), over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Ü.G.B. was reportedly later released by the gendarmerie.

Meanwhile, a Turkish court on Wednesday jailed a former judge who had released alleged key coup suspect Adil Öksüz. The Ankara 21st High Criminal Court handed down jail terms of eight years, nine months to Çetin Sönmez over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Sönmez had released Öksüz after he was detained near Akıncı Airbase in Ankara on July 16, 2016. Öksüz, a theology professor, later disappeared.

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.

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