Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has abducted three Turkish nationals linked to the Gülen movement from the African country of Gabon, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Osman Özpınar, İbrahim Akbaş and Adnan Demirönal was caught in Gabon in an MIT operation.The three men, who were detained in Gabon on March 23, were taken to Turkey from Libreville by private jet and are now being questioned by Turkish police.
On March 29, MIT abducted six Turkish nationals linked to the Gülen movement from Kosovo.The incident sent shockwaves around the world and in Kosovo, where the prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, who said he was unaware of the removal of the Turkish nationals to Turkey, fired the country’s interior minister and head of the intelligence service for failing to inform him about the arrest of the Turkish nationals.
Maja Kocijancic, an EU spokesperson, has slammed the arrest and deportation of six Turkish nationals from Kosovo due to their links to the Gülen movement, saying the incident raises questions about respect for the due process of law.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Saturday that the Turkish government would continue chasing alleged followers of the Gülen movement abroad and bring them back Turkey. Speaking at a ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) congress in the southwestern province of Denizli, Erdoğan said: “Some 80 FETÖ terrorists have been brought to Turkey. We will chase them no matter where they escape to,” adding: “As you know we nabbed six senior members of FETÖ. We caught them in Kosovo and brought them here.”
“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in late March 2018 exposed the details of torture cases in Turkey last year and called on the Turkish government to enforce its proclaimed policy of zero tolerance for torture.
So far, a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan, Sudan and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.
US media last year reported that Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, was part of a potential bargain between former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and top Turkish officials.
An alleged plan that involved Flynn forcibly and illegally removing Gülen in return for millions of dollars is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 10, 2017.
Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City.
The alleged meeting to discuss the kidnapping of Gülen followed another meeting in September in New York between Flynn and Berat Albayrak, energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, with the attendance of former CIA director James Woolsey, who described the proposal to The Wall Street Journal as “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.”
President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP government pursued a crackdown on the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.
Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. Despite the movement strongly denying involvement in the failed coup, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement following the putsch.
A total of 62,895 people were detained in 2017 as part of investigations into the movement, according to Interior Ministry reports. The number of people who have been investigated for alleged ties to Gülen movement reached 402,000 in March 2018, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on March 15.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 15, 2016 through government decrees issued as part of an ongoing state of emergency declared after the failed coup attempt.