ISTANBUL – A Turkish-Mexican political activist who remained unaccounted for after he was recently arrested in the Cambodian capital is now under custody in Turkey, officials said on Saturday.
Ankara has accused Osman Karaca of being linked to exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen, whom the government considers the mastermind of a failed attempt to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.
Several Turkish media on Saturday showed Karaca in handcuffs after being charged with setting up and operating a terror organization due to his alleged links to Gülen’s movement.
He was reportedly brought from Cambodia to Turkey by the country’s secret services, according to Anadolu news.
Karaca’s spouse had said on Friday she had lost contact with the activist after he was arrested Monday in Phnom Penh, where he had recently begun working as an educational consultant at a Phnom Penh university.
“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,” Amnesty’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia Nicholas Bequelin had earlier said.
Karaca was the head of the Zaman International School in Cambodia, which was shut down earlier this year under pressure from Turkish authorities.
Gülen’s followers used to be close allies of the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) – in power since 2002 – until 2013, when both groups had a falling out that later led the government to brand Gülen as a terrorist and coup leader.
Turkey revoked Gülen’s citizenship in 2017, making him stateless. He currently resides in the United States.
In 2018, Turkish authorities said that the country’s secret services had caught some 80 alleged members of Gülen’s movement in 19 countries since the coup attempt.
In January, the Zaman International School in Cambodia – part of an international network of schools with alleged connections to Gülen – was bought by a Cambodian business owner with strong government ties after Ankara vowed to boost its trade with Phnom Penh beyond $1 billion.
Gülen’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.