CCTV shows school principal being 'abducted' as post-coup crackdown in Turkey spreads to Malaysia

Lizzie Dearden

A school principal has disappeared in the latest in a string of international arrests allegedly ordered by Turkey in a post-coup crackdown that has seen more than 100,000 people detained.

Turgay Karaman was on his way to a meeting with lawyers when he was intercepted by plain clothes officers and bundled into waiting car in Kuala Lumpur.

CCTV footage taken in the underground car park and obtained by The Independent shows the 43-year-old being led away with his hands restrained behind his back on Tuesday evening.

Friends who sounded the alarm after he failed to attend the meeting believed he had been abducted, with his wife issuing an emotional appeal for help.

“We have lived in Malaysia legally for 13 years, my husband has a work permit,” Ayse Karaman said, breaking down into tears.

“Five Malaysian guys kidnapped him. I am calling on the Malaysian government to help as he is a gentleman and never hurt anyone.”

But police have since revealed he is one of two Turkish men detained in the capital for unspecified offences relating to national security.

Relatives fear they will be deported to Turkey as part of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ongoing crackdown on the “Hizmet” movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, which the government blames for last year’s failed coup.

A lawyer representing Mr Karaman, the principal of Time International School, said neither he nor detained businessman Ihsan Aslan were part of the violence in July.

“They have not been charged for any Gulen activities,” Rosli Dahlan said.

He noted that their disappearances bear striking similarities to a previous case in October, when three Turks reported missing in Malaysia were later discovered to have been deported to Turkey.

The country’s government has requested anyone it accuses of links with the Gulen movement be extradited to Turkey, where more than 110,000 people have been detained and 47,000 formally arrested in the ongoing crackdown.

Among them are journalists, teachers, civil servants and soldiers jailed on terror charges over alleged links to Gulenists, which many deny, while the group refutes charges of leading the coup.

A report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee found evidence of the Gulen movement’s involvement was “anecdotal and circumstantial”, as was the basis of its terrorist designation by the Turkish government.

Several countries have refused Ankara’s calls for extraditions and school closures, and opened investigations into alleged Turkish spying.

But Malaysia is among those appearing to comply with its ally’s requests, having previously detained Ismet Ozcelik, a former university director in Turkey who was fired following the coup attempt.

He was arrested in Kuala Lumpur for allegedly resisting immigration officers who attempted to take away his passport, after receiving a letter from the Turkish embassy linking Mr Ozcelik with the Gulen movement.

He had been visiting his son Suheyl, a teacher at the Time International School, and Mr Karaman was among the witnesses called for his defence.

A report filed to police by another teacher said the principal was abducted on his way to a legal meeting ahead of a two-day court hearing due to start on Wednesday.

When colleagues arrived at the offices’ underground car park in Damansara Heights they saw Mr Turgay’s Toyota and believed he was already inside, but CCTV footage realised he had been detained just 10 minutes before.

“We were shocked to discover that five plainclothes men had followed Mr Turgay’s car and had abducted Mr Turgay at after he exited,” said the witness report obtained by The Independent.

“I fear for my safety and worried that this will happen to me and my other Turkish friends.”

Mr Aslan, a member of Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was also reported missing by his wife on Tuesday night after he failed to return home from work.

Ainnurul Aisyah Yunos Ali Maricar said she and her husband own a shawl wholesale business and have three children.

“We tracked his (phone) GPS and he was near the defence ministry,” she told Malaysian media.

“After that, his phone was switched off. I have lodged a police report but there is no news until now. I am begging the government to please release him.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan classes the Gulen movement as a terrorist organisation (AP)

Khalid Abu Bakar, the Inspector General of Malaysia’s national police force, said both men were detained “for activities that threaten the safety of Malaysia” under counter-terror laws but provided no further information.

A spokesperson for the Gulen movement described Mr Aslan and Mr Karaman as “volunteers” but could not confirm any link between the organisation and the Time International School.

“Gulen supporters have been extradited from Malaysia to Turkey in the recent past without any form of due process whatsoever,” said Dr Ismail Mesut Sezgin, director of the UK-based Centre for Hizmet Studies.

Human Rights Watch urged authorities not deport the detainees to Turkey and called for an urgent investigation.

”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,“ said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director.

Turkey has applied pressure to other countries that are home to institutions backed by Mr Gulen, whose movement runs about 2,000 educational establishments in around 160 countries.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, confirmed Malaysia had handed over three alleged supporters in October following “mutual dialogue”.

“Our fight against them will continue till the end, both inland and abroad,” he said. “We will not stop following them.”

The Turkish embassy in Malaysia has not yet replied to The Independent’s request for comment.

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