Mehmet Gelen, a Turkish teacher who was reportedly abducted in Baku early on Saturday morning, turns out to have been forcibly returned to Turkey later the same day and put pre-trial detention in Ankara.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Gelen, wanted on accusations of membership in the Gülen movement in Turkey, was abducted by Turkish intelligence operatives in Baku and rendered to Turkey on Saturday. The abduction took place in front of a courthouse in Baku where an Azeri judge turned down Turkey’s request for Gelen’s deportation.
Turkey has been labeling real and perceived followers of the Gülen movement as terrorists, particularly since a July 2016 coup attempt. However, the witch-hunt, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had started earlier, in the wake of corruption investigations that implicated him and his family in December 2013. Erdoğan held the movement responsible for the corruption probes and launched a war against it.
As of the present day, over 150,000 people have been dismissed from state jobs over links to the Gülen movement, while tens of thousands are in jail, including mothers with infants and even newborn babies.
As part of the massive purge and persecution of Turkey’s Gülen group on accusations of orchestrating the failed coup on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government has established secret torture sites inside the country to interrogate followers of the movement,
@correctiv_org, a non-profit investigative newsroom in Europe, has recently reported.
Correctiv, composed of nine international media organizations, interviewed two Gülenists who were abducted and tortured at secret sites and reported that the accounts of the witnesses do not contradict each other.
The men, using the pseudonyms Tolga and Ali, who spoke to Correctiv’s investigative reporters at locations in Europe, had been abducted by Turkey’s security forces in black vans, taken to unknown locations with hoods over their heads and were threatened, tortured and forced to become secret witnesses in cases against Gülen movement sympathizers.
After months of torture, the men were released on the condition of sharing information about the movement and eventually managed to flee Turkey.
According to Correctiv, the abductions run by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) both inside Turkey and abroad have already been reported. However, they added, “There are also accounts of another, darker side to the suppression machinery that has remained unreported till now: secret torture sites inside Turkey.”
The Correctiv story also refers to statements of human rights activists who confirm kidnappings and torture inside Turkey. Often, both the victims and their families refuse to talk after the ordeal for fear of further harm to their families, but Correctiv said both Ali and Tolga wanted these cruelties to be known by the world. The torturers, who managed to hide their faces from the victims, often threatened to harm the victims’ families. Since the families were searching for the disappeared men on social media, those efforts also disturbed the torturers, according to the accounts of Ali and Tolga.
Correctiv said their accounts are impossible to verify but that under examination both appear credible.