Seven Turkish citizens including five former police officers who were fired from their jobs in a wide-ranging purge carried out by the Turkish government following a failed coup in 2016 were detained by the police in western Turkey on Friday as they attempted to flee to Greece.
The seven people along with two human smugglers were detained by the Turkish coast guard in a boat sailing from Ayvalık in Balıkesir province to the Greek island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea.
The seven people in the boat were reportedly the subjects of ongoing cases in which they face charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The government accuses the movement of masterminding the coup, while the latter denies any involvement.
Many have tried to exit Turkey illegally since the government has revoked thousands of passports.
The government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in February that a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the movement.