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Saturday, 19 June 2021

Erdogan's long arm: Turks arrested and abducted abroad

Before Gulen became Erdogan's arch-enemy, the elderly US-based cleric -- who denies any part in the coup -- was one of his closest and most powerful allies

AFP , Thursday 10 Jun 2021
Erdogan
Turkish President and leader of Justice and Development (AK) ruling Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a party group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT), in Ankara on June 9, 2021 AFP
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The disappearance of a Turkish teacher in Kyrgyzstan has renewed claims that Turkey's secret services have abducted scores of the country's citizens abroad over the past five years.

The kidnappings and forced renditions are mostly of suspected supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim preacher who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup against him in 2016.

Turkey has boasted that its secret service masterminded some of the cloak and dagger operations, with the justice minister saying 107 "traitors" had been captured abroad by 2019.

Before Gulen became Erdogan's arch-enemy, the elderly US-based cleric -- who denies any part in the coup -- was one of his closest and most powerful allies.

Gulen's worldwide network of schools was once an important part of Turkish soft power abroad.

Here are some of the most notorious cases:

Bishkek mystery

Orhan Inandi, a Turkish-born Kyrgyz citizen who used to head a network of Gulen-linked schools in Kyrgyzstan, went missing on June 1. His car was found near his home with the door open, tyres flat and with the teacher's phone and jacket still inside.

While some 1,000 Kyrgyz security forces search for him, his wife claims he is being held inside the Turkish consulate in Bishkek.

As hundreds protest over the disappearance in the Central Asian capital, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov visits Erdogan Wednesday, who says the two leaders agree the Gulen movement "poses a national security threat to both countries".

Nairobi coup 

Last month Gulen's nephew Selahaddin Gulen disappears from a police station in the Kenyan capital despite a court order banning his extradition.

He later appears handcuffed, triumphantly photographed between two Turkish flags in Ankara.

The abduction echoed the most celebrated operation ever by Turkey's National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), when its agents seized Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Nairobi in 1999.

The founder of the Kurdish Workers' Party, which has fought a guerilla campaign against Ankara since the 1980s, has been held on an island prison off Istanbul since.

Kosovo scandal 

The former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, a border police chief and a top interior ministry official are charged in February with abusing their positions in handing over six

Turks working in Gulen-linked schools to Turkey in March 2018.

The men's families say they were tortured on a private jet by Turkish agents on their way to Turkey.

Uzbekistan 

The same month, Turkish state media reports that two Gulenists had been captured and returned from Uzbekistan.

Moldova five 

Europe's top rights court condemns Moldova in June 2019 over the "extra-legal transfer" the previous September of five Turkish nationals with alleged ties to Gulen.

They were put on a special plane back to Turkey in a joint operation between Turkish and Moldovan intelligence agencies.

A report earlier this year by Freedom House says Erdogan has pursued his "perceived enemies in at least 31 different countries."

Gabon three

Erdogan hails the MIT agents who flew three suspected members of the Gulen movement from the west African state of Gabon after a secret mission in April 2018.

Mongolian stand-off

Mongolia grounds a Turkish air force jet in July 2018 after Ankara denies claims it had tried to smuggle a Gulen-linked teacher from the country.

Veysel Akcay was seized by five men as he left his home in the capital Ulaanbaatar and thrown into a minibus. He was later freed and the jet allowed to leave after a stand-off between the Mongolian and Turkish governments.

'Money man' grabbed

Turkey says its spies in Sudan repatriated businessman Memduh Cikmaz in November 2017. Ankara claims he was Gulen's "money man".

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