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Abducted academic’s wife says ordered by authorities to stop pursuing case

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Emine Özben, the wife of Mustafa Özben, who was allegedly abducted by Turkish intelligence in May, said she was threatened and ordered by authorities to stop following up on her husband’s case, TR724 reported on Monday.

According to the report, Özben was told several times at the Ankara Police Department and Public Prosecutor’s Office that she would find herself in trouble if she insisted on claiming that her husband was abducted by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

Underlining that her husband was seen by eyewitnesses when he was forcibly put in a black van in Ankara’s Yeni Mahalle neighborhood on May 9, Özben said prosecutors didn’t include the testimony of students and shopkeepers who saw her husband at the time of the abduction in the case file.

Mustafa Özben was working as an academic at Turgut Özal University which was shuttered by government decree after a failed coup in July 2016 due to the institution’s alleged ties to the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities carrying out the failed coup.

Özben had been unemployed since the university was closed down, his wife said.

On Aug. 3, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül in a letter to investigate the abductions and possibly enforced disappearances in Ankara of at least four men who have been missing since March.

There are credible grounds to believe that government agents forcibly disappeared the missing men. The Turkish authorities should promptly uphold their obligation to locate the missing men, who may be in grave danger, secure their release and if they are in custody give them immediate access to a lawyer, and let their families know where they are,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW.

HRW was referring to the cases of Önder Asan, Turgut Çapan, Mustafa Özben and Cemil Koçak, all of whom were dismissed from their jobs under state of emergency government decrees and described the similarities in the abductions such as a black Volkswagen Transporter van into which Asan, Özben and Koçak were bundled at different times as reported by witnesses and shown by security camera footage.

The Turkish authorities should urgently demonstrate their commitment to upholding the absolute prohibition on enforced disappearances and ensure prompt and effective investigations into security forces, intelligence services and all other public officials alleged to have unlawfully deprived individuals of their liberty and tortured or otherwise ill-treated them,” said HRW.

Eleven people have been reported missing in Ankara since January.

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