Turkish Consulate in Warsaw seized passport of a news portal founder

Turkey’s General Consulate in Warsaw has seized the passport of a Turkish national in Poland as part of increasing pattern of arbitrary refusal of consular services and unlawful seizure of passports for critics and dissidents abroad by Turkey’s embassies and consulates.

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), an advocacy group that monitors rights violations in Turkey, has received a complaint from a Turkish national named Said Aburrahim Murat who stated that his passport was seized and cancelled by Turkish consulate in Warsaw without a justification for the reason to do so.

Murat, who is the founder of Turkish web site Polonyadan.com that features stories about Poland, said his passport was seized by the consular officer during his visit to the General Consulate of Turkish embassy in Warsaw on March 23, 2017. “They seized my passport with no reason. What they only say is ‘your passport has been cancelled,’” Murat said. When he asked for an explanation, he was not given any response and consular officer simply kept silent.

Murat is a computer engineer who graduated from a university in Warsaw and has been living in Poland legally with his wife. He said he had lived in Turkey, the United States and Brazil before and had no criminal record at all. “When I checked the official criminal report in Turkey, I am clean [there] as well. There is no lawsuit on me,” he noted.

Murat filed a report about the incident at Turkish consulate with both Interpol and the United Nations. He said cancellation and seizure of his passport disrupted his life as he is dependent on foreign travel as part of his employment in a company that does a lot of international work.

“Everyone knows that seizing passport and letting a citizen stay abroad without passport is not legal. That’s why Turkish Embassy does not want to give any reason to us. I send them emails, mails via Polish Postal Services, and petitions. They do not reply for any of them,” he explained.

SCF has been tracking growing number of cases about arbitrary refusal of consular services to Turkish citizen abroad in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and its Optional Protocols (1963), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979).

SCF President Abdullah Bozkurt has written an article on this practice by Turkish government in which he said “The undeclared policy being applied at Turkish consulates has victimized many Turkish nationals who are left without valid passports and unable to obtain official documents such as birth certificates and powers of attorney. Through the abuse of consular services in violation of Turkish law as well as international agreements, the persecution of vulnerable groups on the home front has now clearly spilled overseas. The practice differs from one consulate to another but ranges from outright refusal to serve Turkish citizens deemed disloyal to the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to citing technical difficulties as an excuse not to render services.”

When probed on consular services on April 2016 by the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) that operates under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Turkey said “regardless of the statuses of Turkish citizens living abroad such as ‘worker/employer’ or ‘asylum seeker/refugee,’ all the acts related to their civil status, nationality, passport, and notarial acts are carried out by the Turkish General Consulates and Consular Sections of Embassies of the Republic of Turkey.”

That statement turns out to be false given the fact that so many reports SCF has received about refusal of consular services by Turkish embassies and consulates to Turkish citizens living abroad. In one case, a Turkish citizen living in Paris was denied an affidavit for parental consent for processing a passport application for a family member back in Turkey. The consular office initially said computer networks were down so she could not process the affidavit. The consulate eventually said it won’t grant the affidavit after the applicant made repeated inquiries over time. SCF decided to keep the applicant’s name as confidential for safety reasons. In a similar case, another applicant in Washington DC was denied notary services.

Turkish citizens living in Nigeria, reported multiple cases of service denials by Turkish consulates for various services including birth registry and passport renewals. Turkish consulate-general in Rome was also among reported to have engaged in these unlawful practices. SCF received reports from Asian country Sri Lanka where Turkish consular officers have started rejecting applications for all kinds of consular services from Turkish expats who are believed to be critical of Erdoğan.

Among the most targeted include members of Hizmet movement, a civic group that was inspired by the US-based Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen whose teachings focus on science education, volunteerism, community involvement and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Gülen is a vocal critic of Erdoğan on pervasive corruption in the government and Turkish President’s support for armed radical Jihadists in Syria.

Kurds, Alevis and leftist groups were also targeted in what appears to be a mass-scale persecution campaign perpetuated by the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) against government critics.

Journalist Ahmet Nesin has been denied service at the Turkish consulate in Geneva on April 2017. Nesin said in his Tweet message “My passport has been stolen. I stopped by the consulate in Geneva yesterday. They do not give a passport. Instead, they offer me a document to return to Turkey where, they say, I would be arrested.”

SCF has learned that the consul generals are instructed by Turkish capital to implement this undeclared policy of refusal of services to critics. Afraid of being named and shamed by Turkey’s partners and international organizations, consulate generals are also ordered to decline requests by rejected applicants to receive a written document explaining why the services were denied. In one such case, an applicant told SCF that he asked the name of the consular officer who engaged in such a practice but the officer declined to reveal his identity. The officer also admitted that he was under strict instructions from Turkish Foreign Ministry to not produce any document detailing the reasons for the refusal.

May 10, 2017

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