Officials from several Turkish institutions were actively involved in the forced return of Malaysian-based Gulen followers last week, according to the Anadolu news agency (AA).
Three Turkish nationals — Turgay Karaman, İhsan Aslan and İsmet Özçelik — were detained by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Turkey on May 11. The trio was taken into custody upon their arrival in Ankara as part of investigations into the Gulen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The movement denies any involvement in the attempt.
Even though Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar earlier told reporters that the Turks were arrested without any request from the Turkish government, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency claimed otherwise.
Officials from the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), an anti-terror police unit and an anesthetist were tasked with participation in the operation in Kuala Lumpur, AA said. The anesthetist was standing by to intervene in Özçelik’s detention if he resisted, the agency added.
Özcelik is a former board member at Mevlana University, which was closed down over Gülen links in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. While Karaman was the headmaster of a Gulen-linked international school in the Malaysian city of Ipoh, Aslan was a member of the Malaysian-Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a Gülen-linked business association based in Kuala Lumpur.
A Turkish delegation shared information about the trio with a Malaysian spy agency and law enforcement, AA said, adding that they used code names to disguise themselves.
Turkey’s involvement was so confidential that officials did not even talk about it with family members, AA underlined.
Malaysian authorities said the Turks were deported over alleged links to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in a controversial accusation, drawing criticism from human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Human Rights Office.
Previously, in October 2016, two other Turkish nationals were detained in Malaysia and were deported the following day. Both men were arrested upon their return to Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier called on foreign governments to punish Gülen followers in their own countries. Only a few countries including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have complied with the request so far.
Turkey has already detained more than 120,000 people over their alleged or real ties to the movement at home before spreading its crackdown to overseas.