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[VIDEO] Malaysia again detains Turkish academic with UNHCR refugee card

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İsmet Özçelik, a Turkish academic with a UNHCR refugee card, was detained again on Thursday in Malaysia amid news that two other Turkish citizens who were believed to have been kidnapped were in fact detained by the authorities.

“Today my father was detained again in Malaysia. There are two other Turkish citizens also kidnapped by the Malaysians. He has Refugee Card from UNHCR. My father is still under protection of UNHCR in Malaysia. I’m waiting for all human rights institution to help. There is no statement from Malaysian authorities about my father,” Suat Özçelik, a journalist and son of İsmet Özçelik, tweeted on Thursday, calling on international rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch monitor the developments.

İsmet Özçelik was arrested by Malay officials on Dec. 13 upon an alleged request by Turkish authorities in Malaysia.

Malay security personnel reportedly raided the academic’s house on the grounds that his passport had been cancelled by Turkey over alleged involvement in a coup attempt on July 15.

İsmet Özçelik
İsmet Özçelik

News of Özçelik’s second detention came as Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, called on the Malaysian government to ensure that “under no circumstance” should two Turkish men arrested in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday be extradited to Turkey, where they could face torture and an unfair trial.

“There is little doubt that if they are returned to Turkey, they will face torture in detention, and if charged with crimes there, be subjected to a trial that will fall far short of fair trial standards,” HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement, according to a Wednesday report in The Guardian.

Turgay Karaman, the principal of the Gülen movement-affiliated Time International School in Ipoh, Malaysia, and Turkish businessman İhsan Aslan were abducted by unidentified persons in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

According to a missing persons report submitted by Karaman’s lawyer to the Kuala Lumpur police on Tuesday, Karaman was abducted by five men while he was going to his car in the parking of his apartment.

After Karaman failed to attend a meeting with the friend and a lawyer, the two went to his apartment as they were worried he might have been abducted since two other Turks who were sympathizers of the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities accuse of being behind a failed coup last summer, were abducted by Turkish intelligence in Malaysia after the putsch.

A tweet from Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector general of Malaysia’s police, said that Karaman and Aslan were “caught for activities that threaten the safety of Malaysia” under a section of the penal code that covers terrorism and organized crime.

Kuala Lumpur authorities on Thursday stated that two Turkish nationals arrested in Malaysia are being held on suspicion of funding the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The statement received much criticism because the Gülen movement is known for repudiating an extremist interpretation of Islam and promoting dialogue with the West.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspires the movement, has been under attack by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his loyal media for his meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1998, as part of the Muslim cleric’s outreach and dialogue efforts among faiths.

In October of last year, two Turkish citizens were extradited by Malaysian authorities upon a request from their Turkish counterparts as part of the latter’s clampdown against the movement after they were abducted by Turkish intelligence officers in Malaysia.

The Turkish Embassy is reported to have asked Malaysian authorities to close down Gülen-linked schools in the Asian country as in many other countries in late September. The Turkish ambassador reportedly asked authorities to take legal action against sympathizers of the Gülen movement as well.

The Turkish government accuses the movement of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

The movement is known for its educational and aid activities in over 170 countries, but Turkish Foreign Ministry bureaucrats have been trying to expand domestic pressure to overseas subsidiaries of the movement in the recent past.

Hatice Özçelik, wife of İsmet Özçelik, calls on Malaysian authorities to release her husband.

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