Malaysia Arrests Third Turkish National Over Security Concerns

BenarNews staff
Kuala Lumpur
170505-MY-Erdogan-1000.jpg Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan inspects the Royal Malay Regiment Guard of Honor during his welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Jan. 10, 2014.

A third Turkish national has been arrested in Malaysia this week on security-related charges as authorities rejected suggestions that the actions were taken at the behest of the Turkish government tracking down critics abroad linked to a failed coup last year.

Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said on Friday that Ismet Ozcelik, a 58-year-old academic who has been given refugee status by the United Nations, was arrested Thursday evening.

Khalid said Ozcelik and the two other Turkish nationals arrested a day earlier were a threat to the security of the country.

The two – international school principal Turgay Karaman and businessman Ihsan Aslan – had been linked by Turkish media to U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Khalid rejected suggestions that the arrests were triggered by orders from the Turkish government.

“Why do we want to wait for orders from other country to make arrest here,” he asked reporters. “We have our own laws, we take care of the security of our people and our country so it is our right to decide who we want to arrest.”

UN expresses concern

The United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia on Friday expressed serious concern about the arrests and urged the Malaysian government to refrain from deporting the trio to Turkey.

“There are concerns that these men may have been targeted over their suspected links to the Gulen movement which is accused of being behind a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016,” said Laurent Meillan, acting regional representative of the U.N. Human Rights Office in Bangkok.

The U.N. office noted that Malaysia had detained and deported two other Turkish nationals in October 2016.

It said that they were arrested upon their return to Turkey where they remain in detention without trial.

“We are very concerned that the three men arrested this week may face the same fate as the other two individuals deported to Turkey last year,” Meillan said.

“We call on the Malaysian government to ensure that the three men are given a fair trial in Malaysia and urge authorities not to extradite them as we have serious concerns regarding their safety if they are deported to Turkey.”

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Malaysian authorities to provide the basis for holding the Turkish men and to allow them full access to legal counsel and contact with their families.

“Malaysia’s administrative detention laws open the doors to easy abuse, so it’s important for the government to provide the men’s location and to allow them immediate access to their families and legal counsel,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.

Counter-terrorism efforts

Malaysia and Turkey have been cooperating closely on counter-terrorism.

Turkey deported several Malaysians who wanted to enter Syria via Turkey to join Islamic State (IS).

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Karaman and Ozcelik said he was not allowed by the Malaysian authorities to meet his clients.

“We were not able to meet Ismet and Turgay. We can only meet them on Thursday. Even the family,” Muhammad Faizal Faiz Mohd Hasani told BenarNews.

Ozcelik was a board member of Mevlana University in the province of Konya in Turkey. The university was among the many that have been closed in 2016 because of its alleged ties to the Gulen movement.

He was arrested in December for allegedly obstructing Malaysian Immigration Department officers from carrying out their duty, but freed on bail in January.

State-run Turkish news agency Anadolu said he was freed after he managed to secure U.N. refugee status, which it said provided him with immunity against detention without trial.

Karaman and Aslan were arrested for alleged links to IS, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Thursday. Khalid declined to confirm the IS links on Friday.

“Again, the suspects were arrested for threatening the security of the country,” he said, declining to give specific reasons for the three arrests.

“We have enough reasons to take action,” Khalid said, adding that the three arrests were linked.

“There is no need for outsiders to come here and threaten the security of our country,” he said. “Do not bring your country’s problem into our country.”

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

His movement has been branded a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. Gulen denies government charges he was behind the coup.


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