Former officer fatally shot by police while trying to flee persecution in Turkey

Sedat Türkmen, a former police officer who was fired by an emergency decree as part of Turkey’s post-coup purge of state institutions, died of gunshot wounds on Sunday while trying to flee persecution in Turkey, Bold Medya reported.

Police opened fire on a vehicle belonging to a human smuggler on Sunday in the western Turkish province of Edirne that was carrying five former police officers who had been dismissed from their jobs for their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The police officers were trying to flee Turkey since all had been convicted by a court.

Türkmen, 35, who was seriously injured in the police gunfire, later died in the hospital. The other four former police officers who survived and the human smuggler were taken into custody.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim 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. Erdoğan 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 eyewitnesses, the police officers who tried to stop the vehicle did not target the car itself but rather opened fire on the people inside the car.

Following the failed coup, 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 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.

Thousands of post-coup purge victims had to leave the country illegally because the government had revoked their passports.

Purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown took dangerous journeys across the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Some were arrested by Turkish security forces; some were pushed back to Turkey by Greek security; and others perished on their way to Greece.

Türkmen, who worked as a police officer in Turkey’s eastern province of Şanlıurfa, was fired from his job after the coup attempt. Following his dismissal he was arrested in Şanlıurfa and spent one-and-a-half-years in pretrial detention. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to more than six years in prison but was released pending appeal. Türkmen, who worked in various jobs after his release, wanted to flee Turkey before going back to prison again after an appeals court upheld his conviction.

Türkmen had two sons, a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old. He was buried on Sunday in his hometown in the eastern Turkish province of Adıyaman.

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