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[UPDATE] Gülen-linked man abducted in Baku returned by force to Turkey

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Mustafa Ceyhan, a Turkish businessman allegedly affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement who was abducted on Thursday in front of a courthouse in Baku, Azerbaijan, was flown to Turkey the next day, the Hürriyet daily reported.

Upon his forced return to Turkey, Ceyhan was reportedly put in pretrial detention by an Istanbul court.

According to Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), Ceyhan, who resided in Georgia under UN protection, was arrested in Azerbaijan on April 20, 2017 on charges of illegally crossing the border.

On Thursday Ceyhan was acquitted of all charges. As Ceyhan was leaving the courthouse with his lawyers at around 12:00 p.m., he was abducted by a group of eight men in a black Range Rover with black tinted windows bearing a license place numbered 90 PR 665.

“Today, the lawyers called the United Nations mission in Baku and requested assistance; however, representatives there told them that they could not do anything. They told them to deal with it on their own. I am in Georgia, haven’t seen or met with my husband for a year, and I do not know what to do now. We are so helpless, please help us, we are waiting for your help,” said Meryem Ceyhan, wife of the abducted businessman, in a letter to Turkey Purge.

The Turkish government had accused Ceyhan of having ties to the Gülen movement (also known as the Hizmet Movement) and appealed to Azerbaijan to extradite Ceyhan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pursued a crackdown on the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Despite the movement strongly denying involvement in the coup attempt, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement following the putsch.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on April 18 that at least 77,081 people have been put in pretrial detention over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement since a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Soylu said on Dec. 12 that 234,419 passports have been revoked as part of investigations into the movement since the failed coup.

On Nov. 16 Soylu had said eight holdings and 1,020 companies were seized as part of operations against the movement.

The Turkish government has also extended the witch hunt abroad.

“We have brought 80 FETÖ [a derogatory term used by the Turkish government for the Gülen movement] members [to Turkey] from abroad to date. We will be after the others. You [Fethullah Gülen], in Pennsylvania, you will be brought here, too. It does not matter how much you move around,” said President Erdoğan during an AKP meeting in Istanbul on April 15.

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has recently abducted nine people linked to the movement from Kosovo and Gabon.

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