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Turkey denies alleged enforced disappearance of Yusuf Tunç when questioned by ECtHR

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Cevheri Güven

The Turkish government, answering questions posed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), has denied claims that Yusuf Bilge Tunç was abducted by government agents, in a defense prepared by the Justice Ministry.

A financial services specialist and one of the 130,000 civil servants removed from their posts following an attempted coup in July 2016, Tunç disappeared in the Turkish capital of Ankara on August 6, 2019, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

His family members think he was forcibly disappeared by government agents, a method widely used in Turkey, especially within the last four years after the abortive putsch that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2016.

Mustafa Tunç, the father of Yusuf Bilge Tunç, told Turkish Minute that officials showing no real effort to investigate Yusuf’s disappearance is the biggest reason why they think he was abducted by government agents.

“Right after the incident, we located all the cameras in the area [where he was last seen] and informed the prosecutor’s office so they could analyze the footage, but they did nothing. They requested data collected by the crime scene investigation unit six months later and an HTS [historical traffic search] data after 10 months.”

“There are numerous petitions included in his file, but no data pointing to a serious investigation into his disappearance. We are certain he is being kept against his will somewhere by government agents,” the father added. 

Examining an application by the family regarding the incident, the ECtHR has asked Turkey to present a defense. The Justice Ministry denied the claims of enforced disappearance on October 19, arguing that Tunç was dismissed from his job due to his links to the Gülen movement and that he disappeared to avoid being prosecuted on terror charges.

The Turkish government deems the faith-based group, inspired by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a terrorist organization and accuses it of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt.

Tunç’s family fears he might be subjected to torture since tens of others who went missing under similar suspicious circumstances in Turkey and resurfaced in police custody months later had been exposed to severe torture, with some of them saying they received death threats from state agents.

Six other people — Salim Zeybek, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Mustafa Yılmaz and Gökhan Türkmen — also disappeared in Turkey in 2019  but mysteriously resurfaced in police custody in Ankara after six to nine-month absences. Salim Zeybek’s wife, Fatma Betül Zeybek, was with him when three men in a vehicle forced them to stop their car and abducted her husband.

The whereabouts of Sunay Elmas and Ayhan Oran, who went missing back in 2016, are still not known.

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