The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) viewed the cases of five Turkish abductees with alleged links to the Gulen movement – considered by Ankara as a terrorist organization – within the scope of the court’s priority policy, according to a report by news portal Medyabold.
Taking these cases into consideration under the topic of “direct threats to the physical integrity and dignity of human beings,” the ECHR asked for an official statement from Azerbaijan on the extrajudicial detainment of the five individuals.
Isa Ozdemir, Mehmet Celik, Ayhan Seferoglu, Faik Semih Basoglu and Erdogan Taylan were reportedly abducted by Turkey’s secret service (MIT) from Azerbeijan in 2018, with the alleged complicity of the country’s authorities despite the victims’ legal residence permits.
Ozdemir’s extradition was viewed by a court in Azerbaijan, but it rejected Turkey’s request to hand him over to Turkish authorities even though he had been living there since 1993.
Turkey’s crackdown on Gulenists abroad
“Transnational repression,” was the term used by Freedom House reporter, Nate Schenkkan, to describe the extraordinary renditions carried out by Turkey since the 2016 putsch, in his January 2018 article published by Foreign Affairs.
Turkey snatched its own citizens with alleged links to the Gulen movement from countries like Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Gabon, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo Malaysia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine, according to several reports by rights groups.
Recently, Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkey, Yavuz Selim Kiran, boasted to reporters that more than a hundred Gulenists were brought back to Turkey via MIT operations.
Correctiv, a Germany-based non-profit newsroom, presented a research report titled #blacksitesturkey to the Council of Europe in December 2018, covering the extent of MIT’s international hijacking program.
Other than giving detailed accounts from eyewitnesses on the kidnapping incidents from Kosovo and Malaysia, the report includes a quote from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying, “We will return those Gulenists, who fled and who now think they are safe, to the country one-by-one, and we will hand them over to our justice system.”
According to testimonies of survivors (deemed credible by the joint team of research), those who were abducted by MIT were taken to extralegal confinement buildings, dubbed “black sites” by the Correctiv report, and were subjected to various practices of physical and psychological torture.
“We will punish them in a way that they will beg us to slaughter them to stop their suffering. We will let them beg for death,” vowed Nihat Zeybekcii, MP for the ruling Justice and Development Party.
In tandem with this threat, MIT allegedly abducted Gulen group affiliates within the country, with over 24 reported cases, according to a recent figure given by rights advocate MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu.
120 cases of suspicious deaths were listed by the rights group, Stockholm Center for Freedom, which cites torture allegations and lack of independent inquiries into the incidents, contending that the true number of deaths, since the failed coup, still remains unclear.
$11.7 billion worth of assets owned by alleged Gulenists were seized by the Turkish government as part of the post-coup crackdown, as well as nearly 160,000 civil servants expelled through emergency decrees, and more than 200,000 detained.
Over 80,000 people were imprisoned on charges of Gulen group membership after the failed coup, according to government figures, and currently, over 40,000 of them are still in Turkey’s prisons.