Turkish soldiers threw refugees into river in Uzunköprü

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  • 13:00 18 September 2021
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İSTANBUL - The truth about the soldiers who threw 45 refugees into the Maritza River was revealed. With the witnesses giving their statements, it turned out that the soldiers threw the refugees into the river in Uzunköprü district of Maritza River. Lawyers applied to the Edirne Governor's Office to find the missing refugees after the location was determined.
The location was determined within the scope of the investigation, which started after the statements that 45 people from a group of 150 refugees who were extradited from Greece to Turkey were thrown into the Maritza River on the order of a gendarmerie commander on 24 August.
Upon the application of the asylum seekers who survived after being thrown into the river and the relatives of the refugees who went missing after being thrown into the river, to the Lawyers' Association for Freedom (ÖHD) Istanbul Branch, a criminal complaint was filed with the Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor's Office via communication with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on September 3, demanding that the matter be clarified and a public lawsuit.
After the criminal complaint, the Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation ex officio and took statements from two victims on September 10. The Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor determined the location where the refugees were thrown into the river on September 13 as part of the investigation. ÖHD İstanbul Branch member lawyer Vedat Çağırtekin explained the details for Mesopotamia Agency (MA).
Stating that they are collecting evidence within the scope of the investigation, Çağırtekin told that around 100 refugees crossed over to Greece, detained by the Greek police, extradited to Turkey after a night in jail and delivered to Turkish soldiers. Çağırtekin told that the refugees he spoke to told him that they were seperated into groups of five, adding, "There were 13-14 year old kids. A non-muslim panicked and was thrown out of the boat by the gendermerie commander. Then the commander ordered the group consisting og around 50 people to be thrown into the river in groups of five."
According to the statement of a Labenese refugee, a few people were shot in the back and thrown into the water, Çağırtekin said, adding, "So our clients were also thrown into the river. One of them who can not swim fainted in the water. Two other refugees went help him and carried him to the shore. But the Greek soldiers caught them and delivered them to Turkey again. They came to İstanbul on their own means and applied to us."
Stating that they went to Edirne on September 13 with the 2 refugees who reached them and participated in the search to determine the crime scene, Çağrıtekin said that they have made significant progress in this regard. Çağırtekin shared that as a result of the search, it was determined that the incident took place in the Uzunköprü district of Edirne.
Explaining that his clients were very agitated and scared while they were searching for the crime scene, Çağırtekin said: "They were asking us what would happen to them if they were to speak to us when they first came here. They wanted assurances. But things were looking different when we got to Edirne. They were very scared and very agitated. Some border guards approached us. They panicked. We got them back into the car and never left their side as their lawyers. They are still scared something bad can happen to them even though a police officer was assigned to their case by the prosecutor."
Stating that they are in contact with both the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and the Edirne Governor's Office to find the missing, Çağrıtekin said that the governorship promised them that it would contact the common contact point in Greece on this issue. Noting that they have not yet received a response regarding this matter, Çağırtekin said, “Again, due to the possibility of drowning, we requested from the Governor's Office to carry out the necessary search and rescue efforts for AFAD to find the missing persons. The place where the incident took place is on the banks of the Maritza River and is in the military zone. For this reason, AFAD informed us that they could not carry out any work there without permission. We spoke to the necessary military units regarding this issue and requested that AFAD (Search and rescue teams) be given the necessary permission. They conveyed to us that the Governor's Office should make a request in this regard. At this stage, we made a request from the governor's office. We have not received any response so far."
Emphasizing that efforts should be started immediately to find the missing refugees, Çağırtekin said, “The relatives of the missing refugees have great expectations in this regard. They want to get information from their loved ones, dead or alive. About 20 days have passed since the incident. Efforts to find the missing refugees should be started immediately. Time is working against us."
Saying that they will continue their legal struggle to shed a light on the incident, Çağırtekin called for those responsible to be caught as soon as possible.
MA / Ferhat Çelik