A former lieutenant colonel in the Turkish military has been arrested over alleged links to the Gülen movement after trying to flee the country by crossing the Evros River, which forms the land border between the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne and Greece, the Demirören news agency reported on Tuesday.
The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The former officer, identified only by the initials N.Ç., was detained by Turkish security forces in a forbidden zone in the İpsala district of Edirne.
N.Ç. who was referred to court and arrested.
The former officer was one of the more than 29,000 members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in addition to more than 130,000 civil servants who 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 during a state of emergency imposed by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government following the coup attempt.
The AKP government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt in July 2016.
A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced in November.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.
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 forces and others perished on their way to Greece.
The purge victims had to leave the country illegally because the government had revoked their passports.