Turkey’s espionage activities in Malaysia exposed as more details uncovered

Turgay Karaman and İhsan Aslan were detained by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Turkey on May 11, 2017.

The abductions, detentions and extraditions of three Turkish nationals in Malaysia as part of clandestine operation by Turkey’s state security services in cooperation with Malaysian police exposed Turkish government’s extensive spying and profiling activities targeting critics of the authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on foreign soil.

The new details, obtained by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) from credible sources in Malaysia, revealed that Turkish government contracted local partisan Turks in Malaysia in conducting an espionage on unsuspecting critics and opponents of Erdoğan. The sources, kept by SCF as anonymous for safety reasons, stated that Turkish nationals identified with only initial names as Samet and Turgay unlawfully gathered information about the Time International School and their employees and transmitted them to Turkish government.

Apparently embarrassed by an expose on unlawful and shady affairs involving Turkish President Erdoğan, a close friend of Najib Razak, Malaysian government tried to contain the damage inflicted on its reputation. The harassment of Turks affiliated with the Gülen movement is still ongoing with many being trailed and monitored by people who are believed to be linked to Malaysian and Turkish security services.

On May 19, 2017, just outside of the courthouse in Kuala Lumpur, spooky looking men in suits and sunglasses kept watching Turks and their lawyers as they attended to legal proceedings to challenge what they considered to be unlawful and illegal acts of Malaysian authorities. Several days ago, daughters of a man who is affiliated with the Gülen movement were harassed twice by unidentified men who asked intrusive questions like the location of their homes and about the affairs of their father’s. Another man, also linked to the movement, was surveilled and photographed by unknown men who were riding in a car and driving next the victim’s car.

Earlier this months, it was revealed that the profiling of Erdoğan’s critics led to what initially appeared to be abductions by unknown gunmen but later turned out to be detentions by elements of Malaysian security services at the request of Turkish government. Malaysia has handed over six Turkish nationals to Erdoğan government in the last six months amid outcry from human rights organizations that urged Malaysian government to halt the practice for fear of torture, cruel treatment and abuse of government critics at the hands of Erdoğan regime.

SCF identified five Turks as turned over to Turkey by Malaysian government under questionable circumstances with a total disregard to a due process and fair trial protections. Turgay Karaman, the principal of prestigious Time International School, İhsan Aslan, a member of Malaysian Turkish Chamber of Commerce And Industry and İsmet Özçelik, an academic who is under protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were detained by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Turkey on May 11.

Alettin Duman, one of founders of Time International School, and Tamer Tıbık, the General Secretary of the Malaysian Turkish Chamber of Commerce And Industry, were abducted in Kuala Lumpur last year, only to appear in Turkish prison in Ankara months later after having gone through a terrible ordeal of torture and abuse at the hands of Malaysian and Turkish officials. The sixth person, mentioned by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as handed over to Turkey by Malaysia, still remains to be a mystery as of today.

SCF also learned that a harassment of Turks in Malaysia by thugs who appear to have been linked to Najib Razak government continues unabated. Several days ago, unidentified men came to the school, bullied and threatened a Bangladeshi technician who works at the Time International School. The men asked to find out who leaked the CCTV footage of the abduction of Karaman to media.

The CCTV footage revealed that Karaman was 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 with lawyers. The 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.

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 Karaman and Arslan were arrested in connection with activities that threatened national security. He said  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.

Khalid Abu Bakar and Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Ahmad Zahid Hamidi rejected claims that Turkish intelligence involved in a covert operation in Malaysia to abduct, detain and deport three Turkish nationals. But Turkey’s official news agency refuted remarks of Abu Bakar and Zahid Hamidi, revealing how a secret team from Turkey composed of intelligence officers, police officers and even an anesthesia specialist involved in abductions in Malaysia. State-run Anadolu (AA) news agency said several Turkish institutions were actively involved in the forced return of three Turkish nationals from Malaysia.

All abducted and deported people are believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement, inspired by the US-based Fethullah Gülen who is a major critic of Turkey’s President Erdoğan. Gülen harshly criticized Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government and Erdoğan’s arming and funding of Jihadist groups including Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or Daesh) in his bid to topple Bashar al-Assad regime.

Erdoğan started targeting Gülen and his movement openly after the corruption was exposed in December 2013 that incriminated the president and his family members, and later accused the movement of being behind the failed coup of July 15, 2016 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 evidence linking the movement to the abortive coup or any violence.

 May 23, 2017

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