UN expresses grave concern over Myanmar, Thai deportation of Sökmen to Turkey

Furkan Sökmen

The United Nations expressed grave concern on Saturday over the deportation by Myanmar and Thailand of a Turkish national Muhammet Furkan Sökmen over alleged connections to a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016  in Turkey.

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said the deportation of Sökmen, a former employee of an international school in Yangon, to Turkey was one of an increasing number of cases of Turkish nationals singled out by Turkish government over alleged links with Gülen movement.

Sökmen was reportedly arrested at Yangon airport on Wednesday, the UN said in a statement. He was sent to Thailand where he was held at an immigration detention center before being deported to Turkey on Friday.

Colonel Myo Thu Soe, spokesman for Myanmar police headquarters in Naypyitaw, told Reuters that an official from the Turkish embassy had given him a certificate of identification and Furkan Sökmen was put on a Myanmar Airways plane to Bangkok, while his wife and daughter remained in Yangon.

“UN Human Rights for South-East Asia expressed grave concern over the deportation by Myanmar – via Thailand – of Turkish national Muhammet Furkan Sökmen, and strongly urged authorities not to deport those deemed at risk upon their return to Turkey,” the UN said in a statement.

“We reiterate our call to all governments, including in this latest case the Thai and Myanmar governments, to put in place an effective system of review before deportation occurs,” said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the UN Human Rights office for South-East Asia.

Furkan Sökmen is at least the sixth person to be deported from Southeast Asia over alleged connections to Gülen movement, the UN said.

In a similar incident, Turkish educators Turgay Karaman and İsmet Özçelik, who were turned over to Turkey by Malaysian government under questionable circumstances with a total disregard to due process and fair trial protections, were arrested by a an Ankara court and put behind the bars over their alleged links with the Gülen movement on Wednesday.

It was also reported by pro-government news sources that businessman İhsan Aslan, who was also deported illegally from Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian government, was released by the same court under judicial probe.

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 has been 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.

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 had exposed Turkish government’s extensive spying and profiling activities targeting critics of the authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on foreign soil.

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.

Erdoğan started targeting US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement openly after the corruption was exposed in December 2013 that incriminated the president and his family members, and later accused Gülen and the movement of being behind the failed coup of July 15, 2016 that he himself called as “gift from the God.”

Fethullah 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.

According to a statement from Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 6, 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.

May 27, 2017

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