Document confirms diplomats spied on Erdoğan critic abducted by Turkish intelligence in Tajikistan: report

A judicial document obtained by Nordic Monitor confirms that Koray Vural, a Turkish businessman who is believed to have been rendered by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization MIT, had been profiled by Turkish diplomats in 2017 and reported to the foreign ministry in Ankara.

According to Levent Kenez’s story, the information was later used in a criminal indictment for a charge of terrorism by a Turkish prosecutor.

Vural was abducted as he exited his car in front of the Özyurt Restaurant in the capital city of Dushanbe on September 16. According to eyewitness accounts, Vural was taken by a group of eight men, and subsequently, on September 17, was transported to Turkey aboard Somon Air SZ 103, a flight from Dushanbe to Istanbul Airport.

According to a December 13, 2018 decision by prosecutor Birol Tufan, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/43629) into Turkish nationals who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

According to the documents they were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Tufan.

Ambassador Ali Rifat Köksal
Ambassador Ali Rifat Köksal

The profiling documents were sent to Ankara by Ali Rifat Köksal, the Turkish ambassador to Tajikistan between 2016 and 2020.

Kaan Esener, a former ambassador and previous permanent representative of Turkey at the Council of Europe who was in charge of a worldwide spying campaign against critics and opponents of President Erdoğan in nearly 100 countries, was appointed head of the General Directorate for International Law at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August.

It was revealed in documents that surfaced in 2018 bearing the signature of Esener that diplomats posted to Turkey’s foreign missions were involved in spying on Erdoğan critics.

Then-deputy undersecretary Esener had intelligence notes that had come through the ministry’s Security and Research Directorate and were distributed to the Ministry of Justice, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and relevant departments of the Security Directorate General. The distribution was intended for the purpose of initiating additional administrative or legal measures against individuals who had been profiled, punishing their relatives in Turkey and seizing their assets. According to these documents, thousands of citizens faced terrorism charges in legal proceedings.

Secret documents from the foreign ministry obtained by Nordic Monitor provide evidence that Turkish diplomatic and consular missions around the world have been systematically involved in monitoring individuals critical of President Erdoğan. They also gathered information on Turkish citizens living in other countries that was then transmitted to the authorities at home.

Vural, a father of three, faced legal action in Turkey as he was reportedly implicated in investigations related to the Gülen movement, a group critical of Erdoğan, by a prosecutor in Bursa. His name also appeared on a list terrorism suspects drawn up by the Interior Ministry. The list, including hundreds of Erdoğan critics, was deemed unlawful by the Council of State last year. However, the Erdoğan government did not acknowledge the decision and continued to publish the list on the ministry’s website.

Born in 1977, Vural arrived in Dushanbe in 1994 to attend university. He graduated from Tajik State University’s English teaching program and then completed his doctorate at the same school. After working as a teacher and administrator in Turkish schools in Tajikistan for a period of time, he ventured into business in 2016. Initially engaged in the export of electrical transformers, facilitating their transportation from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan, Vural later established the Özyurt Restaurant. His Turkish passport expired in 2020 and was not renewed by the Turkish Embassy, but he was allowed to reside in Dushanbe with the permission of the Tajikistan presidency.

Vural had submitted an application for resettlement in a safe country under a United Nations program after  Emsal Koç, a teacher affiliated with the Gülen movement, who had been living in Tajikistan for 29 years, was similarly abducted from in front of his residence in Tajikistan on July 4, 2023 and transported to Turkey. According to information in Turkish media reports, Koç was allegedly coerced into becoming an informant.

In June 2023 a report drafted by British lawmaker Christopher Chope for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) highlighted the role of MİT in abducting critics from other countries in clear violation of international and national laws.

The report, while acknowledging the previous efforts of CoE bodies, is the first to comprehensively address transnational repression and to discuss legal guidance. It states that “transnational repression is a global phenomenon attacking the foundations of democratic societies and the rule of law, and that strengthened and more coordinated action to prevent and fight it is needed.”

PACE called on states that have reportedly engaged in transnational repression to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and that victims receive reparations. In order to better prevent and fight transnational repression, it recommended that all states develop legal guidance for government agencies, impose targeted sanctions and expel diplomats who have been directly involved in transnational repression incidents.

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