UN working group finds detention of Turkish citizens abducted from Malaysia due to alleged Gülen links arbitrary, requests investigation

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has concluded that the arrest and detention of two individuals who were abducted from Malaysia on October 13, 2016 due to alleged ties to the Gülen movement were arbitrary and urged the Turkish and Malaysian governments to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding their detention and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights.

The cases in question concerned Alettin Duman, a teacher, and Tamer Tıbık, a businessman, both abducted from Malaysia, arrested and later convicted of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. WGAD said the appropriate remedy in both cases would be the unconditional release of the victims and the according of “an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, including for the impact on their psychological integrity of being abducted and forcibly transferred to Turkey.”

Duman and Tıbık were arrested in Kuala Lumpur by Malaysian law enforcement officers who did not properly identify themselves or present arrest warrants. According to witnesses Duman was subdued at gunpoint after leaving a mosque close to his home. When he tried to break free, the perpetrators administered an anesthetic, causing him to lose consciousness.

Tıbık was abducted by four individuals who suddenly grabbed him by the arms and forced him into a van in the parking lot of the building where he was attending an English course. They handcuffed and forced him to wear black glasses, impeding his vision.

After staying in detention for more than a day, the abductees were handed over to Turkish officials at the airport and returned to Turkey, on October 14, 2016, on a Turkish Airlines flight.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

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

Following his arrival in Turkey, Duman was held at the Milli Piyango (National Lottery) custody center in Ankara, where he was subjected to constant physical and psychological torture by an interrogation team for 21 days. He was later arrested and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment for allegedly having an administrative role in a terrorist organization. He is serving his sentence at Keskin Prison in solitary confinement.

Tıbık was taken to the Ankara TEM sports gym and remained there for 18 days, abused, threatened and humiliated by the officers. He was later arrested and sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for membership in a terrorist organization. Tıbık was recently released, pending appeal.

WGAD found that the deprivation of liberty of Duman and Tıbık by the governments of Turkey and Malaysia was in contravention of Articles 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 8, 10, 11 (1) and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and arbitrary, falling under what is called categories I, II, III and V.

The categories involve deprivation of liberty without any legal basis, deprivation of liberty resulting from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial and the deprivation of liberty in violation of international law for reasons of discrimination based on birth; national, ethnic or social origin; language; religion; economic condition; political or other opinion; gender; sexual orientation; or disability or other status, and which aims towards or can result in ignoring the equality of human rights.”

The Stockholm Center for Freedom published a report in October 2021 on extralegal methods employed by the Erdoğan government since  the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests have been denied. According to UN experts, since the coup attempt the Erdoğan government has forcibly transferred more than 100 Turkish nationals to Turkey. No other perpetrator state has conducted such a large number of renditions during the same time period.

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