Turkish authorities have detained and arrested four women who were allegedly planning to flee to neighboring Greece to avoid imprisonment on conviction of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported on Monday.
The group of women included former teachers Harika Demirbaş, Fatma Demirbaş and Hümeyra Er, and housewife Yeter Erkul whose vehicle was intercepted by the police in the coastal province of Muğla, based on a tip.
The three former teachers were sentenced to seven years, six months in prison on terrorism-related charges due to their links to the Gülen movement.
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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Following the coup attempt, 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 civil servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 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, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.