Erkan Akıllı, a Turkish biology teacher attempting to flee persecution in Turkey has drowned in the Maritsa River, whose lower course forms part of the Bulgarian-Greek border and the Greek-Turkish line.

According to the Kronos news portal, Akıllı was fired from his job with a decree issued by the Turkish government following a coup attempt in July 2016. He was later sentenced to 6 months in prison over links to the Gulen group, which the government accuses of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The group denies any involvement.

Akıllı had reportedly spent some 5 months in a Çorum prison in 2017.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey since the failed coup due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against alleged members of the Gülen group, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Many have tried to illegally flee Turkey as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

In November 2017 Hüseyin Maden, a 40-year-old teacher from Kastamonu, dismissed in the aftermath of the failed coup, drowned along with his wife and three children while seeking to escape to the Greek island of Lesbos.

In February 2018 eight Turkish citizens, including three children, two women and three men, lost their lives in the Evros River. Members of the Doğan and Abdurrezzak families were trying to reach Greece on the same boat.

In July 2018, 36-year-old Hatice Akçabay and her three sons, 7-year-old Ahmet Esat, 5-year-old Mesut and 1-year-old Aras, went missing after a boat carrying several Turkish asylum seekers capsized in the Evros River.

The same month, an inflatable boat carrying 16 people en route to Lesbos capsized, resulting in the death of six people, including three infants. The three infants who drowned in the Aegean were identified as Y. Baha Aksoy, Burhan Yeni and Nurbanu Yeni; two women as Sümeyye Avcı and Sena Aksoy; and a man as Gürkan Yeni.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.