Turkish businessman with ties to Gülen movement deported from Algeria

N.N.K., a Turkish businessman with alleged ties to the Gülen movement living in Algeria, was deported to Turkey following a joint effort on the part of Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Police, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported today.

N.N.K., who was wanted by an Ankara court on allegations of membership in an armed terrorist organization, was brought to Turkey in a private jet owned by the Turkish police. According to Anadolu, he is currently being interrogated by the counterterrorism police in Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors as well as 20,571 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

In the past the Turkish government abducted individuals with ties to the Gülen movement from various countries. On the night of August 28, 2019 some 30 police officers broke into the residence of Arif Komiş, a chemistry teacher who worked at a Turkish school in Malaysia affiliated with the Gülen movement. They arrested Komiş, his wife and their four children. Four police officers told the Komiş family their passports had been canceled by the government of Turkey and that they should prepare in five minutes for imminent deportation to Turkey.

Komiş held a valid asylum-seeker certificate from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicating that he should be protected from forcible return to a country where he claimed to face threats to his life or freedom, pending a final decision on his refugee status. Yet, he was forcibly and illegally removed to Turkey by a special plane.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found the arrest and detention of the Komiş family arbitrary and recommended that the Turkish and Malaysian governments (1) release Arif Komiş, who is currently in pre-trial detention; (2) pay compensation or other reparations to the Komiş family; (3) conduct investigations into the violation of the Komiş family’s rights; and (4) make the necessary legislative amendments and/or changes in practice to harmonize the laws and practices with their international obligations in line with the opinion.

In a similar case WGAD concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of six Turkish teachers by Kosovar and Turkish state agents in Kosovo on March 29, 2018 was arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.

Abducted Turks in Turkish Embassy, Kosovo
Turkish nationals who were abducted in Kosovo were kept for a time at the Turkish embassy premises.

The Turkish government also signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with multiple states that were phrased ambiguously to allow for the expulsion or abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad, according to a joint UN letter published by Nordic Monitor.

UN rapporteurs Luciano Hazan, chair-rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Felipe González Morales, special rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism; and Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment sent a joint letter to the Turkish government in May 2020 to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey.”

In the letter they also conveyed their concerns about the personal safety and integrity of the deported individuals as well as those at imminent risk of deportation from third countries.

The UN rapporteurs asked the Turkish government to provide further information about its operations in coordination with authorities in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Gabon, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Pakistan for the abduction, arbitrary arrest, detention, enforced disappearance or torture of at least 100 individuals suspected of involvement with the Gülen movement.

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