Malaysia Arrests 2 Turks, Cites National Security Threat

N. Natha
Kuala Lumpur
170503-MY-Turkey-1000 Turkish leader Reccep Tayyip Erdogan (left) shake hands with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak after a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Jan. 10, 2014.

Malaysian authorities have arrested two Turkish citizens for suspected involvement in activities threatening national security, the country’s police chief said Wednesday as Human Rights Watch voiced concern that the men could be locked up and tortured if sent back home.

The two Turks – Turgay Karaman, a principal at an international school in the Malaysian state of Perak, and businessman Ihsan Aslan – were reported missing by family members overnight.

A CCTV camera filmed Karaman, 43, being forced into a car by five unknown men in the basement of a Kuala Lumpur building while he was about to meet his lawyer on Tuesday, according to reports. The footage was circulated on social media, and a copy of the police report on the incident was seen by BenarNews.

“Malaysian police would like to confirm T. Karaman and I. Aslan were arrested yesterday for involvement in activities that threaten the safety and security of Malaysia under Section 130 of the Penal Code,” Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar announced on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

His message gave no more details.

Ahmet Dogan, first secretary of the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, declined to comment to BenarNews on whether the arrests in Malaysia were carried out at Ankara’s request, or say anything else about their cases.

Terrorist ties?

According to a report published on Wednesday by state-run Turkish news agency Anadolu, the two men are believed to be linked to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

He lives in exile in the United States, and his movement has been branded a terrorist organization by the government of President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan. It has accused Gülen of masterminding an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016. Forces loyal to Erdogan crushed the coup, during which 265 people, including 161 civilians, were killed.

When they were arrested in Malaysia, Karaman and Aslan were set to testify in a Malaysian court as defense witnesses in a case against Turkish Ismet Ozcelik, according to Anadolu.

Ozcelik was arrested on Dec. 13, 2016 after he allegedly stopped plainclothes Malaysian immigration officers from checking his passport at his son’s home in Kuala Lumpur, the news agency reported. Malaysian authorities held him for 50 days following his arrest, but they freed him on Jan. 31, when he obtained U.N. refugee status.

The Anadolu report did not specify what charges Ozcelik faces in Malaysia.

Turgay Karaman [BenarNews]

A friend of Karaman, Suheyl Ozcelik, filed a missing persons report with police, saying he feared that the school principal would face the fate of two other friends who were deported to Turkey last year for alleged links to Gülen’s faith-based movement.

Turkish nationals Alettin Duman and Tamer Tibik were arrested by Malaysian authorities and extradited by Turkey in October.

Gülen’s movement, known as “hizmet” or “service” in the Turkish language, operates schools and nongovernmental organizations in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, Aslan’s 38-year-old wife, Malaysian Ainnurul Aisyah Yunos Ali Maricar, told reporters that GPS tracking had located the last position of her husband’s mobile phone at the Malaysian Defense Ministry.

“Based on GPS readings, we tracked his movements and he was last seen near the defense ministry building. Since then, his phone has been switched off,” she said, adding that CCTV footage showed he had left the building at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

“I will continue and keep asking him to be tried fairly. I want him to be free,” she said, adding that Aslan had been living in Malaysia for 15 years.

Also on Wednesday, Phil Robertson, a deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned the reported disappearances of Karaman and Aslan.

“These disappearances demand urgent investigation, with a priority placed on making sure that these two men are found and under no circumstances forcibly removed from Malaysia and sent to Turkey,” Robertson said in a statement .

“There is little doubt that if they are returned to Turkey, they will face torture in detention, and if charged with crimes there, be subjected to a trial that will fall far short of fair trial standards.”

His statement apparently came out before Khalid announced the men’s arrests.

“If it is learned that these two men are being held by any branch of the Malaysian government, the relevant agencies must immediately announce where the men are being held and the legal grounds for their detention, and for a start, provide immediate, unfettered access to both their family members and their lawyers,” Robertson said.

Ihsan Aslan [BenarNews]

Hata Wahari contributed to this report.


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