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12 purge victims arrested in Turkey after they were pushed back by Greece

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Twelve former public servants who were fired by the government in the aftermath of a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and were pushed back to Turkey from two Greek islands where they sought asylum last weekend have been arrested, the Bold Medya news website reported.

The former civil servants, who made their way to the Greek islands of Chios and Samos last weekend, were pushed back to Turkey in the middle of the night by the Greek coast guard.

The people were immediately detained by Turkish coastal security guards, subsequently arrested and sent to prisons in İzmir and Aydın provinces.

Four of the former public servants were pushed back from the island of Chios, while eight were pushed back from Samos in the boats they took to reach the island.

Bold Medya reported that the pushback victims had been convicted of terrorism due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement and wanted to flee the country to avoid prison.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the 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.

Ümran D., the wife of pushback victim S.D., a former police chief, told Bold Medya that her husband was given a prison sentence of seven years, six months on charges of terrorist organization membership and that they were expecting his sentence to soon be upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

“He was kept in pre-trial detention for nine months after the July 15 coup. He did not want to go to jail again, leaving me and our three children behind. That’s why he wanted to flee the country,” said Ümran D.

The woman said she learned about the arrest of her husband on Monday, 36 hours after he was jailed, adding that she was able to speak to him through their lawyer. S.D. told the lawyer, “We were just there. They made us get into the boat and sent us back.”

According to data collected by The Guardian based on reports from United Nations agencies as well as the databases of civil society organizations, European countries pushed back 40,000 migrants, forcibly in most cases, between January 2020 and May 2021, and more than 2,000 migrants died during these pushbacks.

The pushback policy was supported by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and has become systematic as the migrants, including children, who escaped wars were sent back, the daily reported.

A total of 6,230 pushbacks by Greece took place between January 2020 and May 2021, according to a report by the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN).

In February 12 migrants froze to death after being stripped of their clothes and pushed back by Greek border guards. The incident sparked international condemnation.

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.

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