UN expresses grave concern over Myanmar, Thai deportation of Gülen supporter

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Furkan Sökmen

The United Nations stated grave concern on Saturday over the deportation by Myanmar and Thailand of Muhammet Furkan Sökmen, a Turkish teacher working for two schools established by Gülen movement followers in Myanmar.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the UN Human Rights for South-East Asia strongly urged authorities not to deport those under high risk upon their return to Turkey.

Recalling that Sökmen, an accountant who had been working at an international school in Yangon, is at least the sixth person to be deported from Southeast Asia over alleged connections to the Gülen movement, the UN said: “Five Turkish nationals have been forcibly returned from Malaysia since last October. It is believed all five remain in detention without trial. The UN Human Rights Office has serious concerns for their safety in Turkey where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations, including torture.”

Sökmen was reportedly arrested at Yangon International Airport on May 24. At the request of Turkish authorities, he was allegedly deported to Turkey via Thailand. In Thailand, he was held at an immigration detention center for 24 hours before being deported to Turkey on May 26.

UN officials have been in regular contact with Thai authorities regarding the possible deportation of Sökmen and had warned of human rights risks if he was sent to Turkey.

“We strongly urge states to stop deporting individuals to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that their safety and well-being is at risk,” said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia.

“We reiterate our call to all governments, including in this latest case the Thai and Myanmar governments, to put in place an effective system of review before deportation occurs to ensure that the health and legal rights of all persons are respected at all times and in compliance with international standards and norms.”

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