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Greece alleged to illegally push-back to Turkey Erdogan’s critics seeking asylum

A Human Rights institute in Sweden accuses Greece of breach of European and International laws by sending back Turkish citizens seeking asylum in an effort to escape the purge by the country’s political leadership.

According to allegations, the Greek government has started to apply these practices “as of mid-May”. The practices are claimed to involve “Greek security forces as well as unidentified and masked gunmen who intercept people near Turkish border and send them to other side by force, violence and threats.”

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has received credible information from multiple sources that indicated at least five cases of refoulement which may suggest a systematic and deliberate policy on the part of Greece to send back asylum seekers of Turkish origin back to Turkey to face wrongful imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment.

In a statement, the SCF speaks of at least 5 cases of such push-backs

In all five cases, similar rules of engagement have been applied. First, the Greek police intercepted asylum-seeking Turks who entered to Greece illegally to escape the campaign of persecution against critics and opponents in Turkey. They were taken to a police station for processing and later turned over to a team of five to six unidentified, armed men who was wearing a ski mask. Instead of taking them to a refugee camp, they were forcibly and violently removed to the Turkish side of the border to get picked up by Turkish gendarmerie shortly.

The most recent incident took place on June 2, 2017 when a group of ten Turkish people who entered into Greece were intercepted by Greek police in an area near the town of Didymóteicho in northeastern Greece. Even though they declared to the police that they seek an asylum in Greece, the group was placed in a police vehicle with a license plate no. EA2790 under the guard of armed and masked men in military fatigues. They were taken to the river bank and forced to get on the boat to cross Maritza River to land on Turkish side. Greek police seized their mobile phones and passports and did not return them.

The group — composed of non-commissioned officer Halil Kumcu, Assistant Professor Fatih İlkaya, teachers Yılmaz Erdoğan, Fethullah Çatal and Mustafa Can, his wife Hatice Can and their four children — were detained by Turkish gendarmerie within two hours. Kumcu, Can and Çatal were later formally arrested in Turkey, while the cases of İlkkaya and Erdoğan is still pending. Hatice Can and the four children were released under judicial probation.

In another case on May 24, 2017, the prominent Turkish journalist Murat Çapan, who had been sentenced to 22,5 years for two news stories that are critical of Erdoğan government in liberal Nokta magazine where he worked as the managing editor, crossed into Greece illegally to seek asylum and escape the wrongful prison sentence that was handed against him on May 22, 2017. Çapan and his two friends, named Ali Erkan Ataç and Süleyman Sivri, were intercepted by Greek police at the town of Didymóteicho. They were taken to a police station where they declared their intention to seek asylum in Greece.

The cases attracted the attention of human rights advocacy groups with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stating that “the refoulement to the Turkish authorities of people that are in danger of severe violations of their most basic human rights, if it has indeed taken place, is a blatant violation of international law and it is clear it was not the initiative of the local police force.”

FIDH has also demanded an immediate investigation into the incident and concrete answers from the relevant ministers concerning the policy that is in effect at the borders. Also it said the Human League for Human Rights has already sent an official notice to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees demanding an investigation into the incident.

The reports have alarmed Commissioner for Human rights at the Council of Europe. Commissioner Nils Muiznieks expressed his concern about the reports.

When asked about the issue on Wednesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos denied the allegations. “Greece is not involved” in expulsions, he said.

Some members of the European Parliament urge EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, to investigate the claims.

KTG has often reported of cases of Turkish citizens arrested while they were trying to flee to Greece. Some of the cases are mentioned above.

More than 200 Turkish citizens have fled to Greece since the failed coup i July 2016 and the massive purge orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A purge against not only people involved in the fail coup attempt but also against anyone criticizing his undemocratic regime.

The most striking case is one of the 8 Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece with a helicopter a day after the coup. While the Greek government had initially showed willingness to meet Ankara’s request for extradition, Greece’s Supreme Court rejected the request citing fears for their lives and a not fair trial.

A furious Erdogan launched a series of unprecedented provocations against Greece.

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