Turkish academic illegally deported by Malaysian gov’t in 2017 not allowed to contact his family

Turkish academic İsmet Özçelik.

İsmet Özçelik, 60, a Turkish academic who was illegally deported to Turkey by the Malaysian government in 2017 due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, is not allowed to communicate with his family by telephone or letter, the Tr724 news website reported.

Rana Özçelik, his daughter, tweeted that he has not been allowed to call them for the past three-and-a-half years but that now he has also been forbidden to send letters to them. She claimed that the prison administration was applying psychological pressure on her father.

Özçelik, who had been under protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was detained by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur with two other Turkish men under the country’s Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA). The Malaysian authorities said they were being investigated under Section 130J of the Penal Code (read together with SOSMA) for allegedly soliciting, giving support to terrorist groups, or for the commission of terrorist acts.

In a statement Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson had reacted to the deportation, saying: “Done in the middle of the night, with no notification to their families, Malaysia sent these three men to face a possible risk of torture and prolonged pre-trial detention, followed by a court trial that will likely fail to meet fair trial standards. The refoulement of İsmet Özçelik, who had person of concern status with the UNHCR, is a clear violation of international human rights law.”

Amnesty International had also issued a statement warning Malaysian authorities that the possible extradition would put the men at risk of torture.

Malaysia deported Özçelik to Turkey on May 11, 2017 and was sentenced to nine years, 11 months in prison on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. He is serving his sentence in Denizli Prison in western Turkey.

Özçelik has been subjected to ill-treatment in prison. He suffered a cardiac complication in August 2019 but was not taken to a hospital. Suat Özçelik, his son, claimed they were not informed of the situation and found out from their lawyer more than a week later that his father had health problems.

İsmet Özçelik was a cardiac patient when underwent an angiography in 2016 to rule out a pulmonary embolism.

The 60-year-old Özçelik is reportedly being held in an overcrowded prison ward that he shares with 24 other inmates under poor conditions.

In May 2019 the UN Human Rights Committee called on Turkish authorities to release Özçelik, saying the country had violated his freedoms.

“The State party is obligated … to release the authors (of the complaint) and provide them with adequate compensation for the violations suffered,” the committee’s report on the case said, noting that Turkey’s membership in an international rights covenant required it to act and provide an “effective remedy,” the UN had stated.

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