As more members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) attempt to escape to Greece, a police probe found that a senior member of the group sent instructions to others on how to make it into the country neighboring Turkey. The "guidelines" sent to Gülenists were discovered on several members detained by the security forces.
Using an illegal migrants' route, FETÖ suspects fleeing a crackdown in the wake of their July 15, 2016 coup attempt, try to secretly enter Europe. Some mingle with illegal migrants from other countries while others join forces with members of other terrorist groups, like the PKK, to cross into Greece. Tight border patrols along the border in the northwestern province of Edirne often thwart the attempts. Last month, security forces stopped 30 FETÖ-linked suspects trying to cross into Greece.
Greece is the first gateway for Gülenists, who usually spend a short time there before moving on to other European countries, Germany in particular.
Investigating the captured members, security forces found out that a senior member, identified with his initials as M.A.Ö. managed to cross into Greece. He then sent instructions on "how to behave" in Greece.
M.A.Ö. was a "police imam" for the group, a senior handler in charge of infiltrators in the law enforcement. He was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison by a Turkish court. A photo sent by the suspect to other FETÖ members shows he followed his own guidelines and took a photo with a Greek flag as soon as he entered Greece. Authorities also discovered his phone contact with other Gülenists and sent them texts with a detailed description of escape routes. In one message, he urges others to buy a new cellphone with a new SIM card before hitting the road. In another message, he cautions them not to carry heavy bags and have waterproof bags to cross a river separating the two countries.
"Sleep well in Edirne. You won't feel tired while rowing," he says in another message. M.A.Ö. urges fellow members to dress in new, clean clothes once they arrived in Greece and act like tourists. "Greek police will treat you well. They are kind and understand our situation," he says. In another message, he says they would be interrogated at a police station and urges Gülenists to "give the right answers and clarify which side they are on," he says.
Greece has become a top destination for FETÖ members after the 2016 coup attempt. Ekrem Dumanlı, the editor-in-chief of FETÖ mouthpiece Zaman, as well as Cevheri Güven, a journalist involved in a plot by FETÖ to implicate a politician in a sex tape scandal, were among those who fled to Greece after investigations were launched against them in Turkey. Dumanlı is believed to be in the U.S. while Güven still resides in Thessaloniki. Some FETÖ members manage to reach the country while others are stopped at the border. Once in Greece, FETÖ members find assistance from Yalçın Esmek, a high-profile member of the group, a report in the Turkish language daily, Sabah says.
Esmek, a businessman linked to the terrorist group, serves as the group's point man for fugitives in Greece and helps them travel to other European countries. Esmek currently serves as the FETÖ "imam" in Greece. He organizes meetings of FETÖ in the offices of his food exporting company and acts discreetly to avoid surveillance. He often travels to Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France, where he meets other top members of the terrorist group and helps FETÖ members in obtaining residence permits and funding their travel expenses.
He was also involved in the legal proceedings for asylum for eight putschist soldiers who fled to Greece after the 2016 coup attempt. The incident strained Turkey-Greece relations after Greek courts refused Turkey's extradition requests and Athens secured asylum for four of the soldiers.
Esmek actively lobbies for asylum for FETÖ members and has been involved in arranging trips, asylum proceedings and travels to other European countries for some 8,000 FETÖ members so far. FETÖ members stay in centers for asylum seekers and receive aid from a Germany-based nonprofit.