Banker, jailed unlawfully, faces health troubles in Turkish prison

Nurettin Aytuğ

A bank manager who had been working for Turkey’s one-time largest Islamic lender Bank Asya risks deaths over serious complications of his health in prison where he has been locked up for almost a year without a conviction.

Nurettin Aytuğ, then-Erbil manager of Bank Asya, caught up in Turkish government’s unprecedented crackdown on the Gülen movement, a civic movement that is inspired by the US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen. Aytuğ and his family was planning to board a plane in Kurdish city Erbil bound for Sweden before he was abducted by unidentified men and whisked away to Turkey.

He was quickly turned over to Turkish authorities at the Habur Border Gate on the Turkish-Iraqi border by unknown people. Turkish media originally reported that Interpol was involved in his extradition but later this report was turned out to be false. According to a story appeared on Milat daily that quoted Rudaw, Col. Birzo Mohammed of Kurdistan Interpol, said they had nothing to do with the extradition of Aytuğ. He also said Aytuğ was known to be the bank manager for Bank Asya, not the person responsible for Iraq of the Gülen movement.

Following the handover at Turkish-Iraqi border, Aytuğ was taken to Konya, a major city located in Central Anatolia, on August 8, 2016 and was placed under arrest. He was later transferred to a high security prison in Turkey’s western province of İzmir.

Since then, Aytuğ has been staying in a solitary confinement in a high security prison in İzmir for months.

His family told Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) that they remain concerned about the well-being and health of Aytuğ because he has been on medication. He was not allowed to mingle with the general population in the prison and faced an ill-treatment by the guards, the family members said.

After months of seclusion in prison cell, Aytuğ has developed psychological disorders, becoming afraid of being killed.

Aytuğ had worked as a branch manager of Bank Asya in Erbil between March 2012 and October 2016. His bank first seized by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government in the year of 2015 on false charges and criminal investigation launched into bank managers over alleged terror charges.

Erdoğan’s media published a series of fabricated articles mentioning of Nurettin Aytuğ as the Gülen movement’s ‘Imam’ of Iraq, the person-in-charge of carrying out administrative and financial activities of the Gülen movement. His family denies allegations, saying that Aytuğ was simply a banker who were involved managing the bank for years.

Erdoğan’s media ratcheted up the smear campaign against him, even publishing private information about Aytuğ’s family members including photos, home address and the name of their friends.

The Daily Sabah, a media outlet owned by Erdogan’s family, even alleged that Aytuğ had met with two senior figures from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on July 11 and July 14. No evidence was presented to support these claims for which the family described as baseless.

Turkish government says that Fethullah Gülen is the ‘mastermind’ behind failed July 15 putsch that attempted to overthrow the government. Gülen, however, denies all these charges and has called for an independent international commission to be set up to investigate the coup attempt. After months of manipulative efforts being shown by Erdoğan’s government, the government has failed to present any evidence linking the cleric or the movement to the abortive coup.

The government started referring to the peaceful civic group Hizmet ( popularly known as Gülen movement) as a terrorist organization (namely, Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) or ‘FETÖ’), following the expose on major corruption investigations in December 2013 that implicated Erdoğan and his family members in billions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks. Erdoğan scapegoated the movement for graft probes that targeted his government.

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