PHNOM PENH – A Turkish-Mexican political activist remained unaccounted for Friday after Cambodian police arrested him earlier this week in the country’s capital, according to his wife.
Osman Karaca’s spouse said she had lost contact with the activist after he was arrested Monday in Phnom Penh, where he had recently begun working.
“Four days have passed and I have not heard anything from him. I am really worried and I fear for his life,” Grace Lalrinmawii Karaca said in a video posted on her Twitter account.
The activist, who had recently been hired as an educational consultant at a Phnom Penh university, was arrested in response to a request by Turkish authorities to the Cambodian government, Amnesty International said Friday.
Since then, the family says it has been unaware of his whereabouts.
Karaca, who received Mexican citizenship last year, has been accused by the Turkish government of being linked to the 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Amnesty says the arrest is linked to an international campaign of political reprisals against Turkish nationals carried out by Erdogan’s government.
“Cambodia has a shameful track record of colluding with other governments to return wanted individuals without due process. The Cambodian authorities must immediately confirm Osman Karaca’s fate and whereabouts, after he was last seen being taken away in a police vehicle,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia.
Mrs. Karaca said she was in contact with the Mexican foreign affairs secretariat and the Mexican embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, which deals with Cambodia.
As of press time, EFE could not confirm with the Mexican embassy in Hanoi about whether it would intervene in the case.
“If he is in custody, he must have access to a lawyer and his family, and his safety should be ensured. The authorities must either bring him promptly before a judge or release him immediately,” Bequelin said.
Bequelin also reminded Cambodia of its “obligation to protect him from persecution, not collude in his abuse.”
Repeated calls to various departments of the Cambodian police were unreturned as of Friday afternoon.
Since the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey has routinely requested countries to cut ties the Gulen movement led by exiled Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gullen, a former Erdogan associate-turned-foe whom the president accuses of plotting the failed overthrow. Turkey revoked Gullen’s citizenship in 2017. He was made stateless and currently resides in the United States.
In January, the Zaman International School in Cambodia – an international network of schools with alleged connections to Gullen – was bought by a Cambodian business owner with strong government ties after Ankara vowed to boost its trade with Phnom Penh beyond $1 billion.
Gullen’s movement and schools are considered extremist organizations by the Turkish government.
A Turkish national was deported in 2017 from Myanmar to Thailand and then to Turkey on Ankara’s request, over allegations that he was involved in the movement.