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Victims of Erdoğan’s post-coup crackdown arrested in Turkey after pushback by Greece

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Three Turks who were facing imprisonment on trumped-up terrorism charges as part of a crackdown launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016 and were pushed back by Greece earlier in July after they fled across the border have been arrested by Turkish authorities, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

Greek law enforcement officers on July 19 pushed Rıdvan Anur, Sultan Anur and Murat Yaşar, who were convicted of membership in the Gülen movement and released pending appeal, back to Turkey after taking their phones, wallets and belongings, the Kronos news website said.

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.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Rıdvan Anur and his wife, Sultan Anur, had previously been sentenced to 10 years, six months and seven years, nine months and 22 days in prison, respectively.

Yaşar, who was arrested along with the Anur couple, had also been sentenced to prison on the same charge, Kronos said, without giving any details about the length of his prison term.

Anur said in her appearance before the court this week that she got married about three months ago and that her husband Rıdvan was dismissed while serving as an officer trainee in the Turkish gendarmerie.

“Half an hour after we crossed, I was caught by the Greek police, and they took my belongings, phone and money and pushed me back to Turkey,” Yaşar was quoted as saying in his testimony.

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 Justice and Development Party (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 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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