132 incidents of direct, physical transnational repression perpetrated by Turkey since 2014: Freedom House

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A report by Freedom House on transnational repression reveals that Turkish authorities have committed 132 incidents, or 15 percent of the total, of direct, physical transnational repression since 2014, noting that Turkey has become the world’s second most prolific perpetrator of transnational repression, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

The report, titled “Still Not Safe: Transnational Repression in 2022,” indicates that the Turkish government has relentlessly pursued exiles associated with the Gülen and Kurdish movements since 2014.

According to Freedom House, the most prolific perpetrators of transnational repression continue to be the governments of China, Turkey, Russia, Egypt and Tajikistan. The rights group’s database includes information on 854 direct, physical incidents of transnational repression committed by 38 governments in 91 countries around the world since 2014. In 2022, 79 incidents committed by 20 governments were recorded.

“In September, a businessman named Uğur Demirok became the latest victim of the world’s most brazen campaign of renditions when Turkey’s intelligence agency kidnapped him from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan,” the report said.

The businessman appeared before a court in İstanbul in November that ruled for his arrest on charges of terrorist organization membership due to his links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of “terrorist” activities.

“In the meantime, people living in Europe who are being sought by Turkey for return continue to experience intimidation and assault,” the report said, adding that Turkey has attempted to leverage Stockholm’s NATO accession for the extradition of its critics living in exile in Sweden.

In November, unidentified assailants damaged a car belonging to Murat Çetiner, an ex-police chief from Turkey living in exile in Sweden, after he was recently targeted by a daily close to the Turkish government that revealed his home address and secretly taken photos.

Since a coup attempt in July 2016 the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has employed extralegal methods to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests were denied.

Most recently Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) confirmed in its annual report that it had conducted operations for the forcible return of more than 100 people with alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“… [M]ore than 100 members of the [Gülen movement] from different countries were brought to Turkey as a result of the [agency’s] increased operational capacity abroad,” MİT’s 2022 report said.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Vice President Fuat Oktay earlier said in a speech in parliament that Turkish agents had conducted “diplomacy” with their counterparts in countries where Turkish nationals were abducted.

In several of these cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.

In its annual human rights report on Turkey, the US State Department included the Turkish government’s transnational repression tactics to suppress its critics living abroad.

The report identified the tactics as extraterritorial killing, kidnapping and forced returns; threats, harassment, surveillance and coercion; misuse of international law enforcement tools; and efforts to control mobility.

“The government engaged in a worldwide effort to apprehend suspected members of the Gulen movement. There were credible reports the government exerted bilateral pressure on other countries to take adverse action against specific individuals, at times without due process,” the report said.

Most recently, seven democratic governments endorsed a new declaration pledging to take greater steps to combat the authoritarian practice of transnational repression. World leaders, who gathered for the online Summit for Democracy 2023 hosted by US President Joe Biden March 28-30, committed to bolstering democracy and combatting authoritarian trends, protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and defending against transnational threats and repression.

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