Okumuş becomes 2nd victim of abductions targeting members of Gülen movement in a week in Turkey

Murat Okumuş

Murat Okumuş, a 40-year-old accountant who was a director at the government-closed Şifa University Hospital in İzmir province, was abducted. It has been second forced disappearance in a week.

“MY SON WAS ABDUCTED! I have failed to get a satisfactory answer from the institutions I talked the issue with. I want to make my voice heard and address to the authorities, here,” a Twitter account claiming to belong to Murat Okumuş’s father said on Thursday.

Okumuş was the operations director at İzmir-based Şifa University Hospital, shuttered over its alleged links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The movement denies any involvement.

“We haven’t heard from my son Murat Okumuş since 6 pm on June 16, 2017. Born in 1977, he is an accountant and he has two kids from his marriage. Loyal to his country and family, he is a successful and honest family guy,” the Twitter account said.

Okumuş was last seen getting into a Migros food store in İzmir’s Bornova district on the night of June 16, his father said by adding that new details emerged only after his own efforts to investigate the issue.

“Even though we asked all police stations and hospitals, we got no record of him. … As a result of our own search, we found out that an abduction incident had taken place the same time on the same day. Witnesses confirmed the likeness of my son’s picture and his clothing. The man abducted back then is, in fact, my son Murat Okumuş,” he added.

“According to the witnesses we reached out to, a group of [plainclothes] people from two different cars forced my son into one of the cars near GYM Fitness store, located on 25, 8th Street, Erzene neighborhood.”

One of the cars is a Volswagen Caddy with a license place starting with 45 while the other one is a Totoya Auris, 20 AK 171, witnesses told the father.

“They told the people around that they are police. But the witnesses did not believe what they were told and called police to the area. Police distpatched to the area examined the CCTV recordings and the license plates in question and told the witnesses that the man was taken by their fellows from the police’s Anti-Terror Department,” the father said.

“I demand answers for these questions,” the Twitter account continued. “Witnesses say that they called the police and told them the licenses plates of the cars. The license plates were audio-recorded too when the witnesses called the police to report the incident. So what is that they are hiding?

“The police dispatched to the area after the call say that abductors are from anti-terror department. If they are so, why do the police stations [I asked] deny that my son is being kept at police? If my son is not at police station, where is he? WE ARE CONCERNED OVER HIS LIFE!

“A man is abducted near Bornova District Governorship, one of the most vivid places in İzmir. I, as an elderly man, try to collect evidences. It has been 6 days that police did not even dare to take video recordings. Isn’t this police’s job?

“I would like my son to get punished if my son did commit a crime. But, it is TURKEY. There are laws, there is prosecutor, there is judge and there are courts. Have those mysterious WHITE TOROS of those unlawful 1980s and 1990s made a comeback?”

White Renault Toroses were common vehicles that the gendarmerie intelligence allegedly used when abducting Kurdish politicians and businessman during 90s, according to witnesses.

Okumuş’s abduction came only a day after Cemil Koçak, another post-coup victim was forced into a black van in broad daylight in Turkey’s capital Ankara.

Koçak, an engineer who was dismissed from a government position over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was followed by four cars (a black and a white Ford Focus, a VW Transporter van and a Fiat Doblo) at around 5.30 pm near his home in Ankara’s Altindag district on June 15, a Twitter account claimed on Saturday.

Mysterious disappearances involving already-victimized opposition groups have become a common occurrence in Turkey in the aftermath of a July 15 coup attempt. At least 13 cases of alleged abduction including that of Okumuş have been reported so far.

Previously, an engineer, three teachers, a lawyer, a university employee, two intelligence agency officials, an Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTİK) employee and a Competition Authority employee have been reported while one of the teachers was handed over by unidentified men to police after spending 42 days out of sight.

Those not seen for quite some time all have in common in their personal histories that they have lost their jobs amid a sweeping crackdown that the Turkish government has conducted against its critics, particularly members of the Gülen movement.

In the parliamentary question meant for Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on April 25, Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu asked why an effective investigation is not being conducted to find these people and who abducted them. Tanrıkulu also said there is widespread suspicion about the abduction of these people by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT).

A new study released by The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) on Thursday has revealed that Turkish government has resumed illegal abductions and enforced disappearances that were believed to be a thing of the past, primarily confined to the dark period of the 1990s, when mainly Kurds were victimized.

The brutal regime of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has now engaged in depriving many victims of their liberty without acknowledging their unofficial detention. This time the prime target is the vulnerable social group Gülen movement against which the Turkish government launched an unprecedented witch-hunt persecution since December 2013.

SCF has so far documented 12 individual cases (before the abduction of Okumuş) of disappearance since 2016 that show a systematic and deliberate campaign of kidnappings by elements within the Turkish security and intelligence services as part of intimidation campaign to silence critical and independent voices and kill the right to dissent.

“In addition to mass torture and ill-treatment of tens of thousands of victims in detentions and prisons, now we started to see enforced disappearances in Turley , sometimes on broad daylight, by security elements linked to the government,” Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of the SCF, has said.

According to SCF study, the motivations behind these abductions and disappearances appear to be twofold. On the one hand the Turkish government keeps up its campaign of intimidation by amplifying fear in the society. That frightens critics and opponents from adopting a critical position against Erdoğan and his associates in the government.

The second motivation on the part of the government is to elicit forced, fabricated and self-incriminating confessions, often written by the police in advance, so that it will help the government case in criminalizing opposition groups, primarily the Gülen movement participants, and facilitate the mass persecution of dissidents.

Turkey survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 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 participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13. (SCF with turkeypurge.com) June 23, 2017

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