Turkish businessman affiliated with Gülen movement abducted in Baku

Mustafa Ceyhan

Mustafa Ceyhan, a Turkish businessman allegedly affiliated with the Gülen mowement, was reportedly abducted in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku on Thursday as part of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup global witch hunt targeting members of the movement.

Meryem Ceyhan, the wife of Mustafa Ceyhan, stated on her husband’s personal Twitter account on Thursday that “I am Meryem Ceyhan. My husband Mustafa Ceyhan had a hearing in court today in Baku. The court released him. My husband was under the protection of the UN. Outside the courthouse a black car pulled up, and my husband was kidnapped by eight armed men. My husband had been accompanied by his lawyer and a lawyer from the UN. My husband is now missing, and we cannot reach him.”

Meryem Ceyhan also sent a letter to turkeypurge.com on Thursday in which she said her husband has been held in pre-trial detention in Azerbajian for almost a year and stated that:

“I am Meryem Ceyhan and Mustafa Ceyhan is my husband. On 20.04.2017, he was unjustly arrested when traveling to Azerbaijan on a business trip and sentenced for 1 year. Today, on 26.04.2018, there was a court hearing and his sentence had ended. The judge freed my partner. A group of 8 individuals in a Volkswagen Transporter forced my husband into the car and kidnapped him outside of the courthouse.

“He was accompanied by our lawyer and another lawyer appointed by the United Nations. They did not do anything. We have been residing in Georgia for 4 years; my 2 sons and I are still in Georgia. Due to the political problems in Turkey, we cannot go to Turkey.

“My partner’s court hearing was normally supposed to take place on 30.04.2018, but it was rescheduled to an earlier date. The trial happened without a notice to our lawyer. Later on, we discovered these news through our own means. Our lawyer investigated and was present at today’s hearing.

“My partner had a United Nations-appointed security officer and I texted and e-mailed them numerous times informing them of my concerns about my partner’s safety, told them to protect him, and they said they would provide their assistance.

“Today, lawyers called the United Nations mission in Baku, Azerbaijan and requested assistance, however, representatives there told them that they could not do anything. They told them to deal with it on their own.

“I am in Georgia, haven’t seen or met with my husband for a year, and I do not know what to do now. We are so helpless, please help us, we are waiting for your help.” 

According to information shared on Twitter by Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), a New York-based human rights group committed to promoting and protecting human rights in Turkey, Ceyhan was detained in April 2017 on charges of illegally crossing the border to Azerbaijan. Ceyhan denied the accusation and indicated that he had taken refuge with the UN and was under UN protection.

AST stated that the Turkish government accused Mustafa Ceyhan, a father of two, of having ties to the Gülen movement and requested his extradition. On Thursday Ceyhan was brought before the court in Baku, and the judge acquitted of the from charges leveled against him.

According to eyewitnesses, as Ceyhan was leaving the court around 12:00 p.m., he was abducted by a group of eight or 10 men in a black minivan (possibly a Transporter). Ceyhan’s whereabouts are now unknown. His family and friends are worried about his condition and fear that he may be illegally sent back to Turkey where he faces risks of torture and ill treatment.

There are many examples of abductions and incidents of physical violence against sympathizers of the Gülen movement by Turkish officials in countries such as Sudan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Georgia, Myanmar and Malaysia

On March 29, six Turkish nationals were illegally arrested in Kosovo and rendered to Turkey by Turkish intelligence officers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the Kosovo operation and promised more abductions.

Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has abducted at least 80 Turkish nationals from 18 countries so far over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on April 5.

After this date, three more Turkish educators and their families who were arbitrarily detained in Libreville, the capital city of Gabon, were handed over to Turkish officials and taken to İstanbul. After the arrival of the 13 Turkish nationals in Turkey the police released the spouses and children of the teachers, who were taken to the police department for interrogation.

The Turkish government has targeted 4,167 teachers who work at 400 schools in 160 countries around the world as part of its post-coup global witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to a report by online news outlet Kronos Haber on Thursday, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has referred three teachers who were detained in Gabon and handed over to Turkey’s MİT, in violation of due process for deportation according to international law, to the court and demanded their arrest following interrogation.

So far, a number of countries have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request over their alleged links to the Gülen movement despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations. Among them are Saudi Arabia (16 people), Malaysia (7 people), Pakistan (4 people), Sudan (1 person), Qatar (45 people), Kosovo (6 people), Kazakhstan (1 person) and Myanmar (1 person).

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip 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 them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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