Stockholm Center for Freedom calls on Malaysia to stop persecuting Turkish nationals

Turgay Karaman, the principal of Time International School in Ipoh, was kidnapped 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.

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a monitoring group on rights violations in Turkey, remain highly concerned on the pattern of abductions, detentions and forcible removal of Turkish nationals in Malaysia as part of Turkish government’s persecution of its critics and opponents abroad.

So far, five Turkish nationals, all are law-abiding citizens and long-time legal residents in Malaysia, were whisked away from the street by unidentified gunmen on a broad daylight and placed under detention under highly controversial circumstances. Two Turkish nationals were already turned over to Turkey to face torture and abuse at the hands of Turkish security services.

All of them are affiliated with the Gülen movement, a peaceful civic group that is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen who advocates interfaith dialogue, science education, volunteerism and community involvement. The movement is highly critical of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on pervasive corruption in the government and Erdoğan’s aiding and abetting of Jihadists in Syria.

Erdoğan declared the critical group as his number one enemy, ordered the arrests of his members and unlawfully seized their assets worth tens of billions of dollars. A total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of witch-hunt persecutions into the Gülen movement in the last eight months alone, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. Close to 150,000 government employees including judges, prosecutors, teachers, doctors, lawyers were purged by Turkish government by decrees that are not subject to any effective judicial and administrative probes.

It appears Malaysian government is doing the dirty bidding of Erdoğan and his government cracking down on peaceful members of Gülen on trumped-up charges of terror. It also allows Turkey to use its notorious security and intelligence agencies to conduct abductions and arrests in foreign jurisdictions which may be considered as a crime against humanity. Turkish government officials have never disavowed this practice of international abductions and rather they proudly mentioned these cases as victories for the government and these remarks were widely reported in pro-government media.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu even bragged about some of these cases in one of his past speeches, and revealed that their abductions were made with personal pledge given to Erdoğan by the Malaysian Prime Minister. The government-linked accounts in social media described rounding up members of Gülen movement this week as secret operations by Turkish intelligence in Malaysian soil.

Actions in Malaysia run contrary to legal principles such as non-interference and arbitrary arrest and detention, violating not only international conventions on fundamental rights but also Turkish and Malaysian laws as well. Even if the rights violation took place in Malaysia, Turkey may be liable for the ill-treatment of kidnapped Turkish nationals that were prohibited by the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Abductees are subjected to deprivation of their liberties when they were repatriated to Turkey and went through torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments. This practice may also give rise to allegations on the act of terror against the international community.

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 speeches delivered in 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.” He also said on April 4, 2017, Erdoğan said: “They [members of the Gülen movement] will not enjoy the right to life… Our fight against them will continue until the end. We won’t leave them wounded.”

SCF calls on Malaysian government to end this arbitrary practice of abductions, detentions, enforced disappearances and forcible removals of Turkish nationals and release ones who were taken away from their families just because they are legitimate critics of Erdoğan. It also appeals on international organizations and non-governmental groups to raise this issue in public discussion, run an awareness campaign and exert pressure on Malaysian government.

Stockholm Center for Freedom

May 4, 2017

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