Turkey’s Defense Ministry has announced that 10 people including a relative of US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen were detained by security forces in western Turkey on Thursday as they attempted to flee to Greece.
According to a tweet on the ministry’s account, five of the people who were detained by border guards in the northwestern province of Edirne had links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, while one of them was the niece of Gülen and identified as Sümeyye Gülen.
The ministry gave no details about the five other people who were detained, but Turkish media reports said they were linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
Media reports also said among the alleged Gülen movement members, one was a former judge and one was a former teacher who were fired by government decrees in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.
Sümeyye Gülen was reportedly on judicial probation. Many family members of Fethullah Gülen have been arrested and convicted of terrorism as part of a crackdown launched by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against the Gülen movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The government accuses the movement of masterminding the coup, although it denies any involvement.
Gülen’s family members say they are being punished due to their family ties to the Islamic scholar.
In addition to thousands who were jailed or prosecuted, thousands of other people have fled Turkey due to the government-led witch-hunt against sympathizers of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.
Many have tried to exit Turkey illegally since the government has revoked thousands of passports.
The government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the failed coup.