Uğur Demirok, a Turkish businessman who went missing in Azerbaijan more than a month ago, was allegedly abducted and illegally brought to Turkey by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the TR724 news website reported on Wednesday, citing an opposition lawmaker.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights advocate and deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on Wednesday brought the issue of Demirok’s abduction to the parliamentary agenda, saying that the businessman’s family was worried about his safety and urging the Interior Ministry and the Ankara Police Department to make a statement on the issue.
According to the MP, Demirok’s family, who hasn’t heard from him for 36 days, was previously told by Azerbaijani officials that he was taken to Turkey as part of an operation carried out by Turkish spies. After they went to the missing persons bureau in Ankara, the family found out that Demirok was being held at the counterterrorism branch (TEM) of the Ankara Police Department.
However, when Demirok’s lawyer went to see him, the officials told him his client wasn’t there, according to Gergerlioğlu.
“TEM [initially] admitted [they were keeping Demirok in detention] and then denied it. … I invite the Interior Ministry and the Ankara Police Department, where [victims of] enforced disappearances [usually] emerge after a while, to make a statement as soon as possible,” the lawmaker said.
According to a report by the Bold Medya news website earlier this month, 42-year-old Demirok, who had been working in the medical equipment business in Baku for the past seven years, left his home to go to work on the morning of Sept. 6 and was never heard from again.
A worker from the carwash on the same street as Demirok’s office, in front of which his car was found with its doors unlocked on the day he went missing, reportedly told the businessman’s wife that he saw people whose faces were covered with masks putting him in a van and taking him away.
The same witness also said he saw suspicious people walking on the street where Demirok’s office is located a few days earlier, Bold Medya said.
The businessman’s wife, Nurdan Demirok, also told Bold Medya that she found footage supporting what she had heard from the witness on a security camera that monitored the street.
“My husband enters the camera’s view at 08.50. Nine minutes earlier … two minibus-type vehicles are seen passing [one after another] within a short period of time, while a pedestrian is seen talking on the phone. I interpret it to mean that the people who took my husband came and prepared in advance. There are some [witnesses] who say that the entrance to the street was blocked by another group during those critical moments,” she said.
During the 1980s and ’90s, many people “disappeared” in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish areas. The practice had been long gone until it reappeared in the wake of an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that claimed the lives of 251 people on July 15, 2016.
Dozens of enforced disappearances have been reported in Turkey since the abortive putsch, with more than 20 of the victims reporting, after they were found, that they were subjected to torture during the time they were “missing.”
The victims of those enforced disappearance cases were mostly alleged followers of the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and targeted by the president since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
The war against the movement culminated after the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016 because Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government designated the movement as a terrorist organization, accused them of masterminding the abortive putsch and initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.