FETÖ members swimming to Greece captured in Türkiye
The Turkish coast guard intercepted two men who tried to swim from Bodrum, a popular resort town in southwestern Türkiye, to Greece, on Tuesday. Two men were identified as members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The suspects were caught off the coast of Bodrum when locals notified authorities about the duo swimming toward the border of the territorial waters of Türkiye. Checking their IDs, Coast Guard Command officers discovered they were L.Ç. and H.C., a former lieutant and a former noncommissioned officer who were charged with membership of the terrorist group. The two were remanded in custody after they were taken to the local court.
Though it is not unusual for FETÖ members to flee abroad, fleeing the country by swimming is rare. Some prefer speedboats or other means also used by irregular migrants, for crossing into Greece from Türkiye’s western shores located only a few nautical miles away from Greece’s Aegean islands. Others choose a land route into Greece, in northwestern Türkiye.
Turkish authorities have stepped up investigations into the wrongdoings of FETÖ in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt by military infiltrators of the terrorist group, which killed 251 people and injured nearly 2,200 others. In the aftermath of the failed putsch bid, members of the terrorist group sought to escape prosecution, by fleeing abroad or hiding in the group's safe houses across Türkiye. Still, tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested by the security forces since 2016.
Greece has been the favorite gateway for suspects linked to the group, though most prefer land routes in Türkiye's northwest. The European country attracted more FETÖ fugitives after it refused to extradite soldiers involved in the 2016 coup attempt to Türkiye after they hijacked a military helicopter and took shelter in Greece. Over 8,000 FETÖ members have crossed into Greece in the past four years, according to authorities. Ankara has criticized the country for ignoring its calls for international cooperation against the terrorist group.
Türkiye's struggle against FETÖ has netted thousands of members since the coup attempt. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) are at the center of the struggle. A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry said in June that 24,387 members of the TSK were sacked since the coup attempt for possible ties to the group while administrative inquiries are underway for 781 others.
The terrorist group, which had infiltrators in law enforcement, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, still has backers in the army ranks, though they managed to disguise their loyalty, as operations and investigations since the coup attempt indicated. According to an investigation by Istanbul's Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which was made public in December 2020, the terrorist group began infiltrating the TSK more than four decades ago. Based on a report prepared by Gendarmerie General Command, 22 of 239 students who graduated from military schools between the 1970s and 1990s were charged with involvement in the 2016 coup attempt, while 58 others were investigated for being a member of FETÖ following the failed putsch bid. While the students discharged from military schools could not continue carrying out their missions in the army, they still aided FETÖ's attempts by offering insight into the military's workings, playing an "active role" in establishing the hidden network inside the TSK, the report says.