Turkish authorities detain 3 former civil servants due to Gülen links upon pushback by Greece

Three former civil servants who have been accused of links to the faith-based Gülen movement were detained in the western Turkish province of Edirne on Sunday night after being pushed back from Greece, where they had fled to seek asylum.

According to local media reports, former member of the Supreme Court of Appeals Mustafa Döner, former prosecutor Cahit Özcan and former police officer Hasan Uzun were pushed back from Greece a couple of hours after they crossed the Evros River, the land border between Greece and Turkey. Upon their return, they were detained by Turkish gendarmes in an area close to the river.

Özcan, Döner and Uzun, who are accused of having links to the Gülen movement, were dismissed from their jobs by an emergency decree in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016.

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 the coup attempt that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

More than 130,000 public 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.

Turkey’s former public servants were not only fired from their jobs after the attempted coup in 2016; they were also prohibited from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Notes were put on the social security database about dismissed public servants to deter potential employers.

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.

The purge victims had to leave the country illegally because the government had revoked their passports.

According to the latest report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), titled “Pushbacks of Turkish asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey: Violation of the principle of non-refoulement,” the pushbacks, particularly of Turkish asylum seekers, violate the principles of international and European Union law, in particular the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returning refugees to a country where they would face persecution.

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