Turkey arranged travel from Somalia and granted citizenship to the wife of Mohamed Abdelhafiz, a Muslim Brotherhood figure who was convicted of assassinating an Egyptian prosecutor after Turkey mistakenly deported him to Egypt.
The revelations were made by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who said on CNN Türk that Ankara had made some mistakes in its migration policy, admitting that the deportation of Mohamed Abdelhafiz to Egypt in January 2019 was one of them.
“We should all be sad. We have made some mistakes in migration. … For instance, a young Egyptian [Abdelhafiz] was deported [to Egypt]. I still feel bad. [Journalist: He was extradited.] Yes, extradited [deported],” Soylu told Turkish journalists on March 4, 2020.
“It was not my fault, but an officer’s mistake. However, [such mistakes] can happen because [interior ministry staff] are dealing with millions of people,” Soylu stated.
Abdelhafiz had arrived in Istanbul as a transit stop on a flight from the Somali capital of Mogadishu to Cairo on January 16, 2019 but lacked the proper documents and was denied entry to Turkey by immigration. A day later, he was deported to Cairo.
Abdelhafiz, who is reportedly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to death in absentia for the assassination of Egypt’s prosecutor general Hisham Barakat in a car bomb in 2015. A court in Cairo in 2017 sought the death penalty for 30 people who were allegedly involved in the assassination. He was also prosecuted in Egyptian military courts in at least two other cases.
The Turkish Interior Ministry had launched an investigation into Abdelhafiz right after he was put on a plane to Cairo, and eight Turkish police officers were immediately suspended in a move to placate furious Islamists and Brotherhood members in Turkey.
Interior Minister Soylu also revealed how he sought assistance from the EU for the Abdelhafiz case in Egypt. “In fact, I asked an EU official to get involved in that case. I told [the EU official] ‘You have good contacts there, please [help Abdelhafiz in Egypt],’ … We brought his spouse from Somalia and granted her Turkish citizenship,” he underlined.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has provided a safe haven for persecuted members of the Brotherhood in Turkey since the 2013 overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Soon after the founding of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, Muslim Brotherhood groups around the world accorded it a leading position in the movement due to the success of Erdoğan and his party. The Brotherhood is believed to be one of the main conduits for Erdoğan in reaching out to Muslim communities in the Middle East as well as in the US and in posing a menace to regimes that don’t support his agenda in the region.
As interior minister, Soylu coordinates the flow of refugees into Greece and Bulgaria. In line with a migration deal agreed with the EU in 2016, Turkey was limiting the flow in exchange for European funding. Speaking to CNN Türk, Soylu stressed that refugees who cross into Europe will soon top a million and that European governments will fall due to the economic destabilization resulting from it, adding that Turkey would let all non-Syrian refugees including those from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, Morocco and Africa go to Europe as well.
Soylu is a key ultranationalist figure in President Erdoğan’s government, promoting anti-Western propaganda in Turkey. “I look at Europe and pity them. I say it very clearly. I’m disgusted with Turks and people in Turkey who value Europe. … Europe has gone bankrupt. It went bankrupt in its humanity. Don’t worry about it. Europe has been failing economically as well,” he told Turkish police personnel attending a workshop on counterterrorism in Ankara on March 11, 2020.
Soylu, backed by Turkey’s “deep state” czars including his own mentor Mehmet Ağar, is also the man behind the ongoing torture and abusive, inhumane and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkish detention centers and prisons.
Former police chief, interior and justice minister Ağar was charged with establishing an armed organization to commit crime as part of the Susurluk deep state case and was sentenced to five years in 2012. He was released after one year, four days in prison, in April 2013.
The interior ministry is also responsible for the ousting from office of democratically elected mayors in Turkey’s Southeast and their replacement with state-appointed trustees. During his tenure, Soylu has dismissed several mayors representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and has appointed governors and district governors to take their place in southeastern municipalities.