Ignoring human rights organization’s plea to not turn three Turkish nationals over to Turkey where they will be subjected to torture and abuse, Malaysian government deported all three critics of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Turkey on May 11, 2017.
Malaysia Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed school principal Turgay Karaman, academic İsmet Özcelik and businessman İhsan Arslan were deported to Turkey.
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia have called on Malaysian officials to refrain from extradition as the detainees who are affiliated with the Gülen movement, which the government has launched a sweeping witch hunt campaign against, will face inhuman treatment, abuse and torture in Turkey.
Yet, Malaysian officials ignored these pleas and handed these three men over to Turkey as they did on the case of two Turkish nationals, Alettin Duman (45), one of founders of Time International School, and Tamer Tıbık (43), the General Secretary of the Malaysian Turkish Chamber Of Commerce And Industry, — also Turkish nationals and believed to be affiliated with the movement. SCF received reports from family members of both Duman and Tıbık confirming that both men endured torture and abuse in Turkish prisons after deported to Turkey in what appears to be unlawful extradition.
Amnesty International stated in its ‘urgent action’ call that “there is credible evidence of arbitrary detention and torture of detainees suspected of belonging to the Gülen movement, which Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have documented. If the three men are suspected to be linked to the Gülen movement, Amnesty International fears the two men will be at risk of being extradited to Turkey where they would risk similar ill-treatment.”
Turgay Karaman, the principal of Time International School (Ipoh), was reported to have been kidnapped on May 2, 2017, by five unknown people at the parking lot of Wisma E & C, a 16-story high-rise building where he came to attend for a meeting. The CCTV camera footages showed he was taken away after he exited from his car at the Basement No.5 of the building. Karaman was scheduled to offer his testimony as a defense witness in a trial hearing of the criminal case that was to be held on May 3rd.
His friends filed a missing person report with the police when they could not reach him on the phone after Karaman did not show up for a meeting at the lawyers’ office in the afternoon of May 2. They later found that his Toyota brand car was abandoned in a parking lot. The United Nation’s office in Kuala Lumpur was also alerted about possible abduction of a foreign national in Malaysia by clandestine groups operating on behalf of Turkish government.
Another Turkish national named İhsan Arslan, 39 years old businessman, was reported missing by his wife who reported to the police that she has been unable to reach to her husband since 8 pm on May 1, 2017. Arslan, married to Malaysian national, is a member of Malaysian Turkish Chamber Of Commerce And Industry, a business advocacy group that is affiliated with Gülen movement which is major critic of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on corruption and Turkey’s arming and funding of Jihadist groups including Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or Daesh).
Although the police could not immediately locate their whereabouts, when the news of their abduction became a breaking story on international media, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said in a tweet On May 3 that both Karaman and Arslan were arrested in connection with activities that threatened national security. He said they were arrested under Section 130 of the Penal Code. It is reported that Karaman and Arslan were detained under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) – which allows for detention of suspects without trial.
İsmet Özçelik (58), a Turkish academic who has been in Malaysia and waiting for the resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was also detained by the police on May 4, 2017.
His detention appears to have been instigated upon a request by Turkish government that has jailed almost 50,000 people in the last eight months alone on trumped-up charges to crack down on opponents and dissidents of Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime. The United Nations, the Council of Europe (CoE) as well the non-governmental organizations have all criticized Turkish government for mass purges, detentions, abusing criminal justice system and silencing critical and independent media.
On Dec.13, 2016, İsmet Özçelik faced an attempted abduction from the home of his son in Kuala Lumpur when unidentified gunmen, appeared to be linked to security services of Malaysia, showed at the door at the request of Turkish security services that wanted to whisk away to Turkey. Police called in on the scene when his family and lawyers intervened with the attempted abduction that halted his extraordinary rendition. He was kept in jail for 50 days before Malaysian authorities decided to release him pending trial.
The social media accounts connected to the Turkish government hailed the abductions of Turkish nationals, saying that Turkish intelligence has been involved in snatching critics in Malaysia. They threatened that other critics in foreign countries will end up in the same situation soon as Turkish intelligence will round up Erdoğan’s critics no matter where they are located around the world. Both Karaman and Arslan have been legally residing in Malaysia for 13 years and they have been involved with educational, charitable and intercultural dialogue activities. There is nothing to suggest that they were involved in any type of violence or terror.
President Erdoğan has persistently voiced threats to those who have been forced to leave the country due to persecution and a witch-hunt, vowing that he will hunt them down and kill them in a public rallies that were broadcasted live and that were attended by tens of thousands of his die-hard fans. The abductions of Turkish citizens from Malaysia came against the background of Turkish President Erdoğan’s remarks which said on September 2016 that “no country or region around the world will ever be a safe haven for members of Gülen movement.”
Speaking at a rally in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Zonguldak on April 4, 2017, Erdoğan said: “We are purging every Gülenist in the army, in the police and in state institutions. And we will continue cleansing [these organizations of] them because we will eradicate this cancer from the body of this country and the state. They will not enjoy the right to life… Our fight against them will continue until the end. We won’t leave them wounded.”
The government started referring to the peaceful civic group Hizmet (popularly known as Gülen movement) as a terrorist organization (namely, the Gülenist Terror Group, 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 started targeting Gülen and his movement openly after the corruption was exposed, and even accused Hizmet of being behind the failed coup of July 15 that he himself called as gift from the God. Gülen, however, rejected the accusations and has called for an independent international commission to be set up to investigate the coup attempt. The Turkish government has failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric or the movement to the abortive coup.
May 12, 2017