Forty-five Turkish nationals, including suspected Gulenists and their families, were transported to Turkey on Monday following their detention by Turkish Cypriot police in Kyrenia over the weekend.
According to CNA News Agency, 19 ex-military officers, 9 women and 17 children, were all arrested in Kyrenia last Friday.
Knews understands the families were living in the north for some time, after having fled Turkey where there were outstanding warrants for their arrest.
Their names were blacklisted for international travel prior to Turkish Cypriot authorities apprehending them in Kyrenia. Media reports said the police received a tip as the families were planning under the radar to flee by boat to Greece.
Reports also said they had thrown their mobile phones into the sea before getting arrested.
Media reports said the police received a tip as the families were planning under the radar to flee by boat to Greece
A Turkish Cypriot judge ordered them all remanded into custody for three days, until Monday when they were taken by boat back to Turkey.
Thousands of people have fled Turkey in the last year, following a failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016 and a crackdown on supporters of the Gulen movement, which Ankara suspects of being the mastermind behind the military overthrow attempt.
Critics called Ankara’s security measures a “massive witch hunt” accusing Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of using the coup as a pretext to go after political enemies.
Thousands of civil servants have had their jobs terminated based on government suspicions they were secretively supporting Fetullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric in the US and founder of the FETO organisation.
About 50,000 have been formally charged and kept in jail during their trials, with Ankara saying the measures are necessary to combat threats to national security.
The transport of the Turkish nationals back to Turkey was made possible by an executive order in the north, according to CNA, as there are no extradition protocol agreements in place.
The northern part of Cyprus remains unrecognised by the world except Turkey, which maintains military presence on that part of the island.
The south, the Republic of Cyprus, remains a member of the UN and EU, with the acquis communautaire currently suspended in the north.
Cyprus was divided following intercommunal violence and was further split in 1974, when Turkish military invaded following a short-lived coup engineered by Athens.
The coup, aimed to overthrow the president of the Republic of Cyprus and unite the island with Greece, took place on 15 July 1974, the same anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey in 2016.