Another purged public servant feared abducted by Turkish intelligence

Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit, a former civil servant who was dismissed from his job by a government decree, has been missing since December 29, his family said on social media, stating they fear that he might have been abducted by Turkish intelligence.

Küçüközyiğit’s daughter Nursena posted a video on Twitter saying they had no idea as to her father’s whereabouts. She said he lived in Ankara while she lived in northwestern Kocaeli province with her mother and siblings due to her studies. In the video Nursena said she last spoke to her father on the 29th and that he told her he missed them and would come and visit them the next day to spend New Year’s Eve together.

Nursena said she was unable to reach her father the day after and that he did not answer her calls. “We didn’t think much about it as he had promised he would join us that evening,” she said. “He didn’t show up, so we called his friends in Ankara, who told us he wasn’t at home.”

Galip Küçüközyiğit was a successful lawyer who served as the chief legal counsel for the Turks Abroad and Related Communities Agency (YTB). He was fired from his job by a government decree in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. He was later sentenced to six years, three months in prison for “membership in the movement” due to his alleged ties to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. Küçüközyiğit was released from pretrial detention pending appeal.

Nursena Küçüközyiğit says she contacted the police on December 31 but was unable to contact the prosecutor’s office because of an ongoing curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the police did not help her and did not respond to her questions. She wrote a letter to prominent human right activist and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

Nursena said her father was living an ordinary life and that there was no reason for him to leave them without saying where he was going. The only thing they could think of was that he was abducted.

“He had said he heard of people he knew being abducted, which makes us think that he was the latest victim,” she said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Gergerlioğlu demanded Turkish authorities do whatever was necessary to find Küçüközyiğit and reunite him with his family. Likewise, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, an activist and deputy from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said on Twitter that an official inquiry must be launched into Küçüközyiğit’s disappearance.

More than 30 people have reportedly been abducted by Turkish intelligence officers since 2016. In some cases, the missing persons have reappeared in police custody.

Apparently intimated, all of them except two kept their silence after their reappearance. One of them, Gökhan Türkmen, however, revealed in a court hearing on February 10, 2020 that he had been held incommunicado at a black site in Ankara run by Turkey’s intelligence agency and subjected to severe torture during his 271-day stay. Türkmen was the object of threats and was sexually harassed and abused during his enforced disappearance.

The other man, Yasin Ugan, also testified at a court hearing on June 23 that he had been tortured for six months after being kidnapped on February 13, 2019 by security officers, with his head covered with a black plastic bag most of the time.

According to a report drafted by a group of lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association’s Human Rights Center who visited the prison to speak with the once-missing persons, lawyers for the missing persons were intimidated by prison management and threatened by the guards. The previously missing prisoners were never allowed to have face-to-face meetings with their lawyers or families, and in any meetings they do have, a government official is present; therefore, they have not had the opportunity to recount the torture and inhuman treatment they endured.

In a joint letter UN special rapporteurs expressed their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals suspected of involvement with the Gülen movement from multiple States to Turkey.”

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on November 26, a total of 292,000 people 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 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

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