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Turkey’s intel agency renditioned Gülenist businessman from Tajikistan: state-run media

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Koray Vural, a Turkish businessman who had gone missing in Tajikistan in mid-September and was being sought by Turkey over his links to the Gülen movement, was renditioned by the country’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the state-run Anadolu news agency has confirmed.

Anadolu on Thursday released a photo of Vural in handcuffs flanked by Turkish flags, reporting that he was abducted in Tajikistan and brought back to Turkey as part of a MİT operation.

The Kronos news website reported last month that Vural was kidnapped by unknown persons in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe on Sept. 16. He had been missing for 20 days.

Graduating with a degree in English language teaching from Tajik State University, Vural also completed his doctorate in the country where he had been living for 29 years. Initially working as a teacher in Tajikistan, he later ventured into business and established the Özyurt Restaurant.

The businessman faced legal action in 2017 as part of investigations targeting the Gülen movement at a high criminal court in Bursa.

Following a coup attempt in 2016, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens, particularly members of the faith-based Gülen movement, under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, although the movement denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.

Anadolu’s report comes 20 days after Vural’s disappearance during which no state institution, including MİT, had made any statement regarding the whereabouts of the businessman.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party (YSP), last month raised concerns about Vural’s health, saying he might be subjected to mistreatment and torture. Appealing on X to Nacho Sánchez Amor, the Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament, Gergerlioğu said security officials insist on not making any comments on Vural and that “he is at risk of torture.”

Meanwhile, the Turkey Tribunal, a civil society-led, symbolic international tribunal established to adjudicate recent human rights violations in Turkey, called on all civil society and state agencies and European institutions to help stop Turkey’s campaign of extrajudicial rendition and transnational repression.

The abduction of Vural marks the second such incident in the past three months in Tajikistan. On July 4 teacher Emsal Koç, who had been living in Tajikistan for 29 years, was abducted in front of his home and brought to Turkey.

Danish-based Turkish journalist Hasan Cücük also criticized the government for the “unlawful” abduction, saying, “There is no government [in Turkey], there is a gang of thugs!”

Although the Turkish government has designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization, none of its Western allies have fallen for Ankara’s portrayal and consider the group a civic initiative focused on educational activities. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, lives in exile in the United States, which has refused to extradite him to Turkey on the grounds that there is no substantial evidence that he committed a crime.

Vural’s passport had expired in 2020, and the authorities had refused to renew it, a common Turkish consular practice against alleged Gülen followers.

He had previously applied to the United Nations for resettlement in a safe country and was expecting the process to conclude shortly.

Since the coup attempt in Turkey, 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.

Most recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in its first resolution condemning all forms of transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights, revealed the tactics of countries, including Turkey, to suppress their critics abroad.

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.

Turkey’s 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.

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