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Businessman illegally brought to Turkey from Iraq arrested over Gülen links

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A Turkish businessman who was illegally brought to Turkey from Iraq by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has been arrested on terrorism charges due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Mehmet Cintosun, who went missing in Erbil, Iraq, on January 29, turned out to be in police custody in Turkey when photos of him were made public by MİT on April 14.

He was sought on terrorism charges for alleged membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by Ankara of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup and designated as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The businessman appeared before a court in the eastern province of Elazığ on Tuesday that ruled for his arrest on charges of terrorist organization membership due to his links to the movement.

According to local reports, he was living with his wife and three children in Erbil and received a phone call on January 29 from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to discuss his residence permit pursuant to his registration by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). His family has never heard from him since.

The Cintosun family has been under the protection of UNHCR, according to the International Association for Human Rights Advocacy in Geneva (IAHRAG).

The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances also registered an Urgent Action request to Iraq on February 2, mentioning the seriousness of the situation, in particular the family’s “fear that he has been disappeared by the Turkish intelligence services (MIT) in order to bring him to Türkiye without him benefitting from applicable extradition and deportation due process rules.”

Since the coup attempt in July 2016 the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has employed extralegal methods to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests were denied.

In a joint letter UN rapporteurs accused the Turkish government of engaging in the systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible returns to Turkey, with at least 100 Turkish nationals renditioned from multiple states to Turkey.

Most recently MİT confirmed in its annual report that it had conducted operations for the forcible return of more than 100 people with alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“… [M]ore than 100 members of the [Gülen movement] from different countries were brought to Turkey as a result of the [agency’s] increased operational capacity abroad,” MİT’s 2022 report said.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding, a charge that Gülen strongly denies.

Vice President Fuat Oktay earlier said in a speech in parliament that Turkish agents had conducted “diplomacy” with their counterparts in countries where Turkish nationals were abducted.

An SCF report, released in October, 2021 and titled “Turkey’s Transnational Repression: Abduction, Rendition and Forcible Return of Erdoğan Critics,” focused on how the Turkish government under President Erdoğan has used extrajudicial and illegal methods for the forcible transfer to Turkey of its citizens abroad.

In several of these cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.

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