Ex-prosecutor fleeing Turkey’s crackdown perishes in Aegean together with his wife

A former public prosecutor and his wife died after a speedboat carrying them overturned in the Aegean Sea as they were trying to flee to Greece to avoid a government-led crackdown in Turkey, Turkish Minute reported on Friday, citing Greek media outlets.

Two other former judges and one smuggler in the speedboat were able to survive, according to the Greek media. The incident, which is thought to have been caused by excessive speed, took place northeast of the Greek island of Kos on Thursday night, according to the Greek coast guard authorities.

The three other people in the boat were rescued by the Greek coast guard, while the man and the woman appeared lifeless as they were taken out of the water. They were pronounced dead at a hospital in Kos.

The couple, İbrahim Gündüz and his wife Nurdan Gündüz, a former court clerk, along with the two other surviving judges, identified as M.Ç. and İ.T.A., were among the thousands of civil servants who were expelled from public service in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in the country in July 2016, according to the Kronos news website.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, thousands of people have fled Turkey since the coup attempt due to the massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against alleged members of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Many have tried to illegally flee Turkey as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

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.

A total of 319,587 people were detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

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