Death of man on Turkey-Greece border must be investigated, MEPs warn

More than 100 MEPs have written to the European Commission president calling for a formal investigation into the death of a Pakistani man on Turkey’s border with Greece in March.

The letter, to Ursula von der Leyen, was prompted by a probe into the death of Muhammad Gulzar by open-source investigators at Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports and Forensic Architecture, which was contributed to by Sky News and German magazine Der Spiegel.

The letter says: “We… expect that the European Commission takes its responsibility to undertake a thorough investigation to the findings revealed by the reconstruction, which give rise to grave concerns, and to report its findings to the European Parliament.

“If both the Greek government and the European Commission remain unresponsive to these allegations, we would witness an impunity which cannot be tolerated in a union that is based on respect for the rule of law.”

Muhammad Gulzar was shot dead in an incident on 4 March as thousands of migrants gathered at the European Union’s southern frontier at Edirne on the Turkey-Greece border.

The migrants had been encouraged to the border over a period of several days after Turkey stood down guards on its side of the frontier.

The Turkish government was attempting to pressure European Union nations to take in more migrants and to take a more active role in the Syrian conflict.

As thousands of migrants gathered at the border, and pressure mounted, the Greek authorities reinforced their side with soldiers to maintain the frontier’s integrity.

Mr Gulzar was among seven men hit with live rounds near the border fence on the morning of 4 March. The Turkish authorities accused the Greek side of firing the bullets.

Greece swiftly issued a denial, dismissing the incident as “fake news”.

Sky News probed the background of the victim, putting a name and a face to the dead man.

We obtained documents revealing that Muhammad Gulzar, 42, had actually lived in Greece since 2008. He had returned to Pakistan in January to see family and to get married.

We spoke to his son, from a first marriage, who explained that he had been on the border that day because he thought, like thousands of others, that it had been opened.

Mr Gulzar did not have residency in Greece but is thought to have been in the process of trying to obtain it. He was known to immigration officials.

In parallel to the Sky News probe, a joint Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Forensic Architecture investigation found that it was likely that the bullets which hit Mr Gulzar and the other men came from the direction of the Greek side of the border.

The Greek government has repeated its insistence that no live rounds were fired on the border at that time. However, no alternative explanation has been provided for the shootings or the death.

The MEPs ask: “Did the commission receive any counter evidence or investigative reports from the Greek government that legitimise this position and the categorisation of these allegations as ‘fake news’?”

Read the full letter here.

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