Businessman takes refuge with Austrian police after Turkish consulate attempts to seize passport

Yavuz Bülbül, a 37-year-old Turkish businessman, took refuge with Austrian police after officers at the Turkish Consulate General in Vienna attempted to seize his passport over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to Turkish and Austrian media sources, Yavuz Bülbül stopped by the consulate on Tuesday to renew his soon to be expiring passport. However, consular officers reportedly seized his passport over Bülbül’s alleged links to the movement.

Bülbül on Thursday revisited the consulate asking for a formal letter to indicate the refusal of service, two days after the incident. Although his request was turned down, Bülbül saw his passport lying on the officer’s desk, which he then grabbed and fled with.

The businessman rushed to the Austrian police officer guarding the consulate building and told him the consulate wanted to illegally seize his passport.

The policeman detained him while the consular officers who chased him outside the building filed a complaint on accusations of assault. The prosecutor in charge of the case dismissed the charges and freed the businessman.

Bülbül is reportedly to returning to South Korea where he has been living for 15 years.

The Turkish government has deliberately condemned dissidents to civil death not only by firing and arresting them but also by canceling their passports, thus destroying their hope and ability to start new lives elsewhere, said a new report released by the Platform for Peace and Justice (PPJ) on March 10, 2018. The PPJ’s 17-page report analyses the legal ground for passport cancellations according to domestic and international law, with reference to the Turkish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on March 15, 2018 that at least 402,000 people have been the subject of legal proceedings initiated by the Turkish government over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” (SCF with

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