Turkish gov’t detains teacher couple after speaking out in an interview broadcasted by Finland’s state TV

A Turkish teacher couple, identified as Serdar A. and Merve A., were detained after Turkish authorities found out that they had spoken against the government’s post-coup crackdown during an interview by the Finland’s state broadcaster YLE, according to pro-government Akşam daily on Thursday.

Akşam daily, the mouthpiece Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has announced on Thursday front page headline on how Serdar A. and Merve A., who anonymously talked to Finnish television network Yle TV1 on crackdown in Turkey, were identified and detained by Turkish anti-terror police.

Finland’s national broadcaster YLE aired a documentary, titled Pako Turkista (Getting out of Turkey) on the recent refugee exodus from Turkey to Europe, on Jan 4, this year.

According to the report, Turkish couple Serdar A. and Merve A. who told Finnish TV network that how they were trying to avoid Turkish government crackdown on the Gülen movement were identified from the aired footage that showed the neighbourhood where they live.

Finnish network YLE TV1 had kept the identities of Turkish couple secret in the program it aired yet they were identified by the police and detained. Serdar A. was formally detained by an İstanbul court on terror charges while his wife released pending charges.

“When we get out of our home, we are sure if we would be able to come back. We are living a prison-like routine. We are not living at the locations registered on our names. I keep a pack of smoking and a lighter in my car (to hide my lifestyle) even though I don’t smoke. When we go out, we always think whether the building is safe, whether there is camera at the park we plan to visit, or whether there are any police at the park we plan to go for a picnic,” Serdar A. is heard as speaking during the documentary.

Serdar A. also states that he hanged a Turkish flag at his car’s rear windshield to pretend like he is a supporter of the ruling party.

Another pro-Erdoğan Turkish daily, Habertürk, has also reported on Thursday that İstanbul anti-terror police examined the video clips from the documentary and located the couple’s address as Esenyurt district where they later found the car, described by Serdar A.

Even though the YLE kept the couple’s names anonymous with their faces darkened in the documentary, police reportedly identified them as Serdar A. and his wife Merve A., according to the report by Habertürk. The couple is reported to have worked as teachers at schools that the government has shut down over affiliation with the Gülen movement.

While there was no outstanding arrest warrant for the couple before the documentary, Habertürk said, they were detained for interrogation. Serdar A. was put in pretrial detention on charges of “membership to the Gülen movement and making propaganda on behalf of it,” while his wife was released.

YLE TV1’s correspondent Tom Kankkonen, who featured the striking document, has said on his Twitter account on Thursday that “Sad news and a failure on my behalf to protect the identities of these individuals in spite of our best efforts. In the future we will be even more vigilant to protect innocent persons. Unfortunately it is too late in this case.”

Finland’s state broadcaster published the documentary in the wake of the recent refugee exodus from Turkey to Europe. “Fear grows in Turkey,” the broadcaster highlighted interviewing people from different walks of life.

Menderes Obay, a pro-government shopkeeper in Çengelköy, İstanbul was revealed to have threatened suspected members of the Gülen movement in the district with brutal methods.

At the very beginning of the documentary, local dealer Obay is heard threatening supporters of the Gülen movement by saying that “We don’t want them and their money in Çengelköy, İstanbul. We know and believe that officials will do something about it. If they leave this task to us, we will punish them in a different way. We will punish them with the God’s justice. And it may do no good to them.”

When the YLE reporter asks what he means by “different punishment,” Obay responds that “We will execute them. We will wash them with their own blood. We will hang them to the flagpoles.”

The İstanbul man adds further during the interview that “We will never let this flag touch the ground and never let Tayyip Erdoğan get hurt. If a hair on Tayyip Erdoğan’s head is harmed, we will burn down the entire world.”

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 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the government against sympathizers of the movement since then. Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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