Turkish gov’t detains 26 people fleeing to Greece to escape post-coup witch hunt

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Twenty-six people were detained in Turkey’s border province of Edirne while they were reportedly fleeing to Greece to escapte the Turkish government’s post-coup witch-hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Pro-government Hürriyet daily reported on Saturday that a group of 26 people were caught in six cars stopped by gendarmerie near Edirne’s Doyran village. The detainees former police officers, military students and teachers who were earlier dismissed from their posts over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Among the group are also children who were later handed over to their relatives, according to the reports by other Turkish media outlets.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others.

On Feb 13, at least three people died and five others were missing after a boat carrying a group of eight capsized in the Evros River while seeking to escape the post-coup crackdown.

On Sunday, Turkish security forces detained 39 people including 26 active duty and retired members of the Turkish military and academics as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Twenty-five officers were detained in operations in 19 provinces as part of a Kars-based investigation. A noncommissioned officer who was sought by the Manisa Chief Prosecutor’s Office was detained in Eskişehir.

Eleven people including academics who were sought by the Ağrı and Artvin chief public prosecutor’s offices were detained by police in Trabzon.

Two suspects were detained in Karabük and Antalya provinces as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, Memduh Çıkmaz, a Turkish businessman who was detained in Sudan and forced back to Turkey as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s global manhunt last year, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The Çorum 2nd High Criminal Court handed over its verdict in a case involving Çıkmaz and 20 others who are accused of having links to the Gülen movement. Çıkmaz was given 10 years in prison on charge of membership to a terror group, Turkish media said on Friday.

Once awarded by former Turkish President Abdullah Gül as the third highest tax payer in the central Anatolian province of Çorum, Çıkmaz was detained in September 2017 in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum where he owns a tile manufacturing company.

Shortly after his detention in Sudan, he “was brought back to Turkey with Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) operation,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency announced in November, 2017.

A number of human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements in recent times, urging foreign governments to avoid extradition to Turkey.

Also on Friday, the Gülen movement affiliated Kimse Yok Mu charity foundation’s local representative in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Çorum, identified with his initials E.A., has been sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison.

Çorum 2nd High Criminal Court handed over its verdict in a case involving E.A. and 20 others who are accused of having links to the Gülen movement. E.A. was given 8 years plus 9 months in prison on charge of membership to a terror group, Turkish media reported on Friday.

E.A. worked as the head of the Kimse Yok Mu office in Çorum province. The Kimse Yok Mu Foundation, which was closed down by government decree in the aftermath of the coup bid in 2016, used to function as the corporate body of aid and relief activities for the Gülen movement.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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