Human rights groups: Malaysian authorities also to blame for Turkish educator’s torture

Malaysian human rights organisations Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) say Malaysian authorities violated international law by deporting a Turkish teacher to Turkey despite fears for his safety, according to a report by Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

Speaking to FMT, LFL and Suaram directors called on Malaysian authorities to accept responsibility for the alleged torture of a Turkish teacher in Turkey after he was deported from Malaysia.

The human rights organisations said the Malaysian authorities had violated international customary law when they deported Turkish educator Alaettin Duman and two other Turkish citizens to Turkey at the request of the Turkish government led by autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They said this was done despite pleas from family members who feared for their safety in the wake of Erdoğan’s clampdown on domestic dissent after an abortive coup.

The two NGOs were responding to a report by Swedish-based human rights group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), which quoted a former detainee as claiming that Duman was being tortured in a Turkish jail.

Duman, a private school teacher who was extradited to Turkey in 2016 on charges that he was involved in the failed coup that year, was allegedly beaten, tortured and threatened with staged executions. The detainee, known only as S.T., had shared a cell with Duman in Ankara’s Sincan Prison.

LFL executive director Eric Paulsen and Suaram project coordinator Dobby Chew said it was unlikely there would be any consequences although Malaysian authorities may have violated international customary law which prohibits the deportation of a person to a place where that person will face further prosecution.

“There’s no international mechanism (to censure such violations). That’s one of the biggest weaknesses in international law, and that’s why Malaysia still violates it,” Paulsen said.

Chew agreed, saying there was no avenue for anyone to challenge or file a complaint after the deportation. “Meanwhile, Malaysia will most likely say it didn’t know and it only complied with requests,” he said.

Paulsen also questioned the different treatment apparently given to different individuals, citing controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik as an example. “Just like Naik – India wants him, but does Malaysia just hand him over to India? Surely Malaysia must examine his reasons for not returning to India to face charges.

“When it is convenient, Malaysia will just hand them over. We have seen how genuine claims of asylum were circumvented by the authorities just bundling them away – people accused of being pro-Fethullah Gülen to Turkey, Uighurs to China and even a poet to Saudi Arabia.”

Alaettin Duman, a teacher in Malaysia who in 2016 was abducted by agents of the notorious Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) from Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur over alleged links to the Gülen movement, has been subjected to beating, torture, death threats and staged executions during his pretrial detention in Ankara, according to his cellmate.

His cellmate S.T., who has recently been released from jail, told exiled journalist Fatih Akalan during a video interview on Saturday that Duman was threatened with death and subjected to staged executions on several occasions.

Duman (47), one of founders of the Time International School, and Tamer Tıbık (43), the general secretary of the Malaysian-Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Industry — Turkish nationals and believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement — were kidnapped on Malaysian soil in late 2016.

Duman and Tıbık were taken to a remote wooded area, subjected to torture and abuse and later turned over to Turkish officials to be taken back to Turkey. Both are currently locked up in Ankara’s Sincan Prison on trumped-up charges of terrorism.

Three other Turkish nationals, Turgay Karaman, İsmet Özçelik and İhsan Aslan, were also deported months later from Malaysia to Turkey.

The UN and other intergovernmental organizations as well as credible NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have all reported widespread torture and abuse cases in Turkish prisons and detention centers. There have been other cases of attempted kidnapping in Malaysia as well according to reports received by SCF.

Early on Thursday, Kosovo police illegally detained five teachers who used to work at schools affiliated with the Gülen movement and an allegedly movement-affiliated doctor and handed them over to the Turkey’s MİT agents.

So far, a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan, Sudan and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in late March 2018 exposed the details of torture cases in Turkey last year and called on the Turkish government to enforce its proclaimed policy of zero tolerance for torture.

A 28-page report issued by the OHCHR quoted the wife of a man suspected of being part of the Gülen movement: “They took me to the police station, terrorism unit … They called the prosecutor and told him on the phone, ‘We have got the wife of a terrorist.’ … Then the police officer started threatening to take off my clothes and that they would show me to the detained male soldiers. He put his hands under my T-shirt and started to take it off. … I was numb, silent.”

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 President 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. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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.”

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