The United Nations Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) has told Turkey to release two men detained over suspected links to a US-based cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, the Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday.
The OHCHR also said that Turkey should pay compensation to the two detainees, academic Ismet Ozcelik and school principal Turgay Karaman, for arbitrary detention.
In 2017, Ozcelik and Karaman were deported from Malaysia to Turkey, where they were charged for having to the leader of the Gulen movement, Fethullah Gulen, who is a US-based cleric living in self-imposed exile since 1999.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government accuses Gulen and his followers of instigating the failed military coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016.
Even though the cleric and the members of his movement strongly deny the accusations, widespread arrests targeting them are still routine in Turkey, where more than 77,000 people were jailed pending trial since 2016.
Critics say that crackdown on the movement, which is led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), points to a growing autocracy in the country.
The OHCHR said that Turkish authorities had violated freedoms of Ozcelik and Karaman and gave Ankara 180 days to comply with its ruling.
However, Reuters said it lacks any enforcement authority.
It is noted in the OHCHR’s report on the case that Turkey’s membership of an international rights covenant required the country to act and provide “effective remedy”.
“The State party is obligated … to release the authors [of the complaint] and provide them with adequate compensation for the violations suffered,” the report said.
The OHCHR also rejected a demand from Turkey asking the case to be seen as an exemption due to the country’s state of emergency and the “serious and complex” nature of the two men’s alleged crimes. It argued that the reasons for Turkey’s exemption demand failed to explain how the men posed a threat.
Reuters indicated that there was no immediate reaction from the Turkish government to the committee report.
Ever since the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey’s AKP government has demanded the extradition of cleric Gülen along with a number of people with suspected links to his network.
While countries such as Kosovo, Pakistan and, Malaysia have complied with Ankara’s demand, others have refused.
In 2018, Kosovo arrested and deported six Turkish nationals at the request of Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP government.
The move led to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj removing his Interior Minister Flamur Sefaj as well as Driton Gashi, the head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, from office.
Pakistani authorities in 2017 deported a former director of a chain of private Turkish schools and his family to Turkey due to alleged links to the Gulen movement.
Ozcelik and Karaman, who is said by the UN committee to be the head of Time International School, had lived in Malaysia for 13 years prior to their deportation.