Turkey’s relentless campaign to hunt down critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan abroad has been carried out in Egypt by Turkish diplomats amid a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, judicial documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
The documents indicate that educators, representatives of local institutions and associations, businessmen and Turkish nationals who have been forced to live in exile in Egypt had been included in a terrorism probe based on fabricated charges by a Turkish prosecutor.
Egypt downgraded diplomatic relations with Turkey in November 2013 and expelled Erdoğan’s envoy from Cairo following a sharp escalation in tensions between the two countries after a military coup in Egypt. Since then, the Turkish Embassy in Cairo has been headed by a chargé d’affaires, effectively a number two.
According to a December 12, 2018 decision by prosecutor Birol Tufan, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation (file no. 2018/43629) into 24 Turkish nationals in Egypt who were listed in espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in the country without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing. Judicial documents confirmed that Turkish nationals were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by Tufan.
Judicial documents dated December 12, 2018 exposed how spying activities of Turkish diplomats in Egypt triggered criminal investigations in Turkey. (The names and addresses of the Turkish nationals have been redacted for security reasons.):
The UN Committee Against Torture decided in June 2019 that the extradition of people who were thought to be members of the Gülen/Hizmet movement, a group critical of the Turkish government that appears to be the latest victim of the government of President Erdoğan, would constitute a violation of Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Egypt is among the countries that rejected Turkey’s politically motivated extradition requests for people who were forced to leave their homeland because of an ongoing witch hunt in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
According to a Turkish Justice Ministry document released previously by Nordic Monitor, Egypt had denied the extradition of dedicated educator Ali Bayram on dubious terrorism charges brought by the Turkish government. Bayram, a 70-year-old education volunteer who devoted his life to the education of young people, had to flee Turkey and sought refuge in Egypt in order to escape a massive crackdown. He passed away in Cairo on June 2.
According to official reports Turkey has sent 570 extradition requests to 94 countries in the last three-and-a-half years. Over 100 alleged members of the Hizmet/Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by Turkish intelligence and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s global manhunt, according to a statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. They were reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment and were denied the right to a fair trial.
In May UN rapporteurs sent a joint letter to the Turkish government to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey.” They asked the Turkish government to provide further information about its operations in coordination with authorities in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Gabon, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Pakistan for the abduction, arbitrary arrest, detention, enforced disappearance or torture of at least 100 individuals suspected of involvement with the movement.
In February Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also confirmed clandestine spying operations by Turkish diplomats on foreign soil. Çavuşoğlu said Turkish diplomats assigned to embassies and consulates have officially been instructed by the government to conduct such activities abroad. “If you look at the definition of a diplomat, it is clear. … Intelligence gathering is the duty of diplomats,” Çavuşoğlu told Turkish journalists on February 16, 2020 following the Munich Security Conference, adding, “Intelligence gathering and information collection are a fact.”
The judicial documents confirmed once again that intelligence reports drafted by Turkish diplomatic missions as part of a large-scale spying campaign have targeted critics and opponents of the Turkish government living outside Turkey and have been used in criminal cases in the country. Turkish diplomats listed the names of Turkish nationals as if they were part of a terrorist organization and transmitted them to headquarters.
As previously disclosed by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry sent lists of profiled Turkish nationals in two CDs to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the national police and Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT on February 19, 2018 via an official document for further administrative or legal action, the punishment of their relatives back in Turkey and the seizure of their assets.
Then, public prosecutor Adem Akıncı, who received the foreign ministry document on February 23, 2018, forwarded the classified CDs including information on 4,386 Erdoğan critics to the Organized Crimes Unit of the Ankara Police Department for further action. The police conveyed the results of its investigations to the public prosecutor.
According to judicial documents released by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on January 16, 2019, the foreign ministry compiled a long list of foreign entities that were owned and/or operated by people who were seen as close to the Hizmet/Gülen movement in 92 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
Moreover, Nordic Monitor revealed how MIT infiltrated refugee camps in Greece in order to spy on opponents who were forced to flee to Greece to escape an unprecedented crackdown in neighboring Turkey.