Turkey's western neighbor Greece is an apparent safe haven for members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the latest figures show. Some 144 suspects linked to the group blamed for last year's deadly coup attempt were intercepted by security forces en route to the Greek islands from Turkey.
Authorities in Muğla, a southwestern province near Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, nabbed suspects between October and November thanks to increased security measures in the area.
The suspects usually prefer speedboats to reach Greece, unlike migrants from Syrian, Asian and African countries that board dinghies to travel to the islands they view as a gateway to Europe.
Among the FETÖ suspects intercepted in Muğla, either while aboard boats or on shore preparing to board boats, were the group's infiltrators in law enforcement, the military and several ministries. Some of the suspects were users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used by FETÖ. ByLock is sufficient evidence for FETÖ membership according to the courts.
In the last 10 months, at least 60 FETÖ members have been captured trying to illegally enter Greece and Bulgaria through the land border. All were apprehended in the northwestern province of Edirne. Turkish border guards are on duty 24 hours a day in a restricted military zone to prevent irregular migration and the passage of terror suspects.
Greece was criticized for apparent tolerance in its courts of suspects involved in the coup bid. Earlier this year, a Greek court refused to deport a group of putschist officers who hijacked a military helicopter and flew to Greece after the coup was foiled.Speaking at a joint press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias last month, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey does not want Greece to be an asylum for FETÖ, citing that since the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, 995 people have applied to the country for asylum. Underlining that both countries should take joint steps in the fight against terrorism, Çavuşoğlu said although Greece has taken steps against the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) in the past, which Ankara highly appreciated, both the DHKP-C and the PKK are still active in the country. "These terrorist organizations' activities should not be permitted since terrorism is an enemy to all of us and should be eliminated," he added.
FETÖ is accused of orchestrating multiple coup attempts in Turkey, and its members face terrorism charges. The group runs a global network of schools and companies spanning the U.S. to Asia. Turkey has renewed efforts to extradite FETÖ suspects from abroad following last year's coup attempt.
High-ranking members of the terrorist group, including leader Fetullah Gülen, were already abroad, while those in the lower ranks fled the country after its brutal coup attempt was suppressed. The Interpol liaison office of the Turkish police is spearheading efforts to bring back FETÖ members from abroad.
Since the coup attempt in 2016, thousands of suspects have been detained or arrested for their links to the group, while a large number of people have been dismissed from their public-sector jobs for association with FETÖ and are on trial. Meanwhile, trials over the coup attempt are underway across the country, and putschist troops face life imprisonment for their involvement in the coup attempt.
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