ISTANBUL – International human rights groups are expressing growing concern over the growing practice in Turkey of kidnappings of people abroad who are accused of terrorist offenses.
A Turkish news channel broadcasts images of Selahaddin Gulen, handcuffed and parading in front of a Turkish flag.
Gulen was driven out of Kenya in May by Turkish intelligence forces. He is accused of being a member of the FETO group, which Turkish authorities say was behind a failed coup in 2016.
Turkish authorities accuse Gulen’s uncle Fethullah of being the leader of the coup. Elder Gulen denies any involvement.
Earlier in June, US-based Human Rights Watch sharply criticized Turkey’s growing use of international renditions – or the surrender of defendants from other countries. Emma Sinclair Webb of Human Rights Watch said that VOA’s core legal practices were being undermined.
“It’s not extraditions; it’s much more renditions, where you capture the individual concerned, and you bypass courts and legal frameworks and force them back into Turkey,” Sinclair said. “And the problem here is that you are illegally ignoring these men’s asylum claims, their citizenship in the countries where they have been based for many years.”
This year, a report by democracy group Freedom House claimed that Turkey had surrendered people from at least 31 countries. Most of those arrested are accused of belonging to the group Ankara accuses of the attempted coup.
In addition, relatives of a Turkish teacher in Kyrgyzstan claim that he was kidnapped by Turkey, an accusation denied by Ankara.
The scale of the Turkish operations is a sign of Turkey’s growing confidence and global reach, said Sezin Oney, columnist for the Duvar news portal.
“For a while Turkey was using its soft power, but now it is using this new diplomatic and foreign influence in a much harsher way, especially in intelligence matters, such as in renditions of cases,” Oney said.
Ankara is committed to continuing to implement this policy. In an attempt to deflect criticism, Turkish officials say the United States used the same practice in its war on terror in the early 2000s.
Professor Alexander Cooley, director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University in New York City, said Turkey would likely be encouraged because it has faced little international criticism, which he says has worrying consequences.
“There is no refusal by the international community that the Turkish government conduct these operations either in tacit collaboration or in formal collaboration with the security services abroad, and there has been very little refusal,” said Cooley. “The implications are that this is becoming a more acceptable practice, this violation of humanitarian standards and this fundamental violation of human rights. “
Ankara says it remains determined to hunt down those it calls its enemies and bring them to justice, warning that they will not find refuge anywhere.