Turkey wants another critic extradited from Brazil to face life in prison

 

Abdullah Bozkurt

 

A Turkish judge has requested the extradition of yet another critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Brazil in a further sign of the flagrant abuse of the Turkish criminal justice system that extends thousands of miles away in Latin America, Nordic Monitor has learned.

According to documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, Yakup Sağar, a 53-year-old Turkish businessman who was believed to be in Brazil, was sought by Turkish authorities on dubious charges ranging from terrorism to coup plotting. Sağar is one of tens of thousands of victims who have suffered at the hands of the oppressive regime of President Erdoğan, whose government has locked up journalists, human rights defenders, academics, judges, teachers and many others in recent years on fabricated criminal charges.

 

 

 

The order for his extradition was signed by Judge Hasan Küçükosman, who wrote in his ruling that the businessman made donations to the Gülen movement, a civic group that is active in education and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. The movement is led by US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, an outspoken critic of the Turkish president for corruption and Erdoğan’s support for armed jihadist groups in Syria.

Among the evidence cited against the businessman was his subscription to the Zaman newspaper, once Turkey’s most widely circulated daily before its unlawful seizure by the government in March 2016. The paper was shut down in July 2016, and many of its editors and reporters were jailed under abusive counterterrorism laws. Sağar’s philanthropic work in helping the poor as part of Gülen movement activities was also listed as evidence of a crime in the order.

 

Turkish businessman affiliated with the Gülen movement would face two aggravated life sentences as well as additional time in prison if he is returned to Turkey and convicted.

 

His business account with Bank Asya, a well-capitalized private lender that was affiliated with the movement and also seized by the government, was among the purported evidence against Sağar. He faces two aggravated life sentences, which replaced capital punishment in Turkey, as well as an additional 27-year imprisonment on seven counts. The case, reviewed by Nordic Monitor, lacks any solid evidence to support the charges.

Judge Küçükosman, who presides over the Zonguldak 2nd High Criminal Court, filed his request for Sağar’s extradition on May 9, 2018. He cited customary international law and the principle of reciprocity as the basis of the extradition request.

Turkish judge Hasan Küçükosman, one of many who do political bidding under legal pretense  in Turkey.

The judge added dozens of unsubstantiated allegations leveled against the movement in his seven-page ruling as if they were fact and appears to have borrowed talking points from the Erdoğan government’s defamatory narrative against Gülen and his followers. He maintained that the charges against Sağar were not political when in fact they look very much so and stated that his rights are guaranteed under international law. In recent years, Turkey has been increasingly criticized for failing to live up to its commitments under international conventions that guarantee rights and freedoms. The United Nations and nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all documented widespread torture and ill treatment in Turkish prisons and detention facilities.

It is not clear whether or not Judge Küçükosman’s request has already been processed by the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry as they both need to sign off on the request for extradition from a foreign country.

The first case in Brazil involved another Turkish businessman, Ali Sipahi, who has been living in in the country since 2007. He was arrested on April 6, 2019 in Sao Paulo on a similar extradition request from Turkey. Sipahi, 31, a restaurant owner in Sao Paulo, has been a Brazilian national since 2016. Brazilian Supreme Court justice Edson Fachin ordered Sipahi’s release from detention on May 7, 2019 pending a decision on extradition case.

Turkey’s abuse of international arrest warrants and extradition requests, sometimes done through Interpol, are subject to widespread criticism. Interpol even suspended the access privileges of the Turkish police’s Interpol unit in filing cases through Interpol mechanisms after noticing widespread abuse by means of multiple filings by Turkish authorities on politically motivated charges.

The arrest of Swedish and German nationals of Turkish origin in Spain in 2017 on arrest warrants issued by Turkey created an uproar in the European Union, with the bloc issuing a rebuke of the Turkish government. Spain later released the detainees and did not turn them over to Turkey.

On July 19, 2016 Turkey submitted to the US a request to arrest Gülen, and on July 23, 2016, formally submitted an extradition request. After reviewing the requests, the US Department of Justice informed its Turkish counterpart that the requests had not yet met the legal standards for extradition required by the US-Turkey extradition agreement and US law. Accordingly, the Department of Justice noted, extradition could not go forward, absent additional evidence substantiating the allegations.

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