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Turkey opposition leader's kin 'abducted' in Nairobi

By Kamore Maina | May 5th 2021
U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. [Reuters, Charles Mostoller]

The diplomatic row between the United States and Turkey has poured into Kenya after a family member of Turkey’s main opposition leader was captured in Nairobi.

Selahaddin Gulen, a nephew of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen - who is holed up in the US - is suspected to have been abducted on Monday by people believed to be Turkish intelligence officers, with the help of local police officers.

His lawyer, Jotham Arua of Rachier and Amollo Advocates, will be seeking orders of the court to have his client produced by the police.

Selahaddin is suspected to have been abducted while on his way to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters, Kiambu Road, where he was seeking the assistance of Interpol to help clear his name over allegations that he was involved in crime in criminal activities in Turkey.

His alleged abduction comes days before a ruling by the Kiambu High Court on a matter challenging his extradition to Turkey.

Fethullah inspired the Gulen movement, which is known as Hizmet (or service) in Turkey and runs educational institutions across the world, including Kenya through the Light Academy schools.

However, after an attempted coup in July 2016, President Recep Erdogan accused Fethullah of being behind the attempt to oust him.

Erdogan began a crackdown on Fethullah's followers, who are suspected of holding powerful positions in the military, judiciary, and even the ruling party.

After the July 15 uprising when a section of the Turkish military launched a coordinated operation in several major cities to topple the government, Erdogan sought the extradition of the cleric from the US, where he has been living since 1999.

Erdogan administration launched a worldwide hunt for people affiliated with the Gulen movement. Hundreds of people, among them civil servants and military officials, have been jailed for life over the attempted coup.

On Monday, Gullen’s nephew Selahaddin was arrested in a similar fashion to the dramatic 1999 security operation in Nairobi that led to the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan, a wanted man by the Turkish government.

Ocalan was one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant organisation founded in Turkey in 1978 to fight for the rights of minority workers.

PKK was listed as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government, the US, and the European Union, putting Ocalan on the international list of most wanted men.

 Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan giving a press conference in the Bekaa Valley village of Bar Elias in Lebanon. (Photo by Joseph BARRAK /AFP)

The arrest of Selahaddin was executed in an almost similar fashion.

At around 9 am on Monday, Selahaddin, who arrived in the country on October 17 last year on a tourist visa from the US, had planned a meeting with officials from Interpol offices in Nairobi.

His mission, according to his lawyers, was to impress upon Interpol to clear his name from the list of wanted men.

Supported coup

He had been wanted by Turkey for an offence that he allegedly committed back home in 2008.

But Selahaddin has fought attempts to get him to Turkey and even went to court to fight extradition.

In his court documents filed in Kiambu on January 28 this year, Selahaddin asked the court to block his extradition until the case challenging his expulsion is heard and determined.

In an affidavit filed before the court, Selahaddin raised 42 points why the Kenyan government could not deport him.

He attributed his intended extradition to the 2016 attempted coup and the subsequent crackdown by the Turkish government on people perceived to be affiliated with the Gulen movement.

“That the real motive behind the issuance of the Red notice is that, in 2016 (when I lived in the US) there was a failed coup attempt in Turkey. It is suspected that one Fethulla Gulen (my uncle) may have supported the coup.

The Turkish authorities, therefore, started a crackdown on all persons who were directly or indirectly related to the said Fethullah Gulen.

"All his relatives who were physically present in Turkey were arrested on fictitious criminal charges and are presently serving long prisons sentence in Turkey,” Selahaddin told the court.

The proceedings before the Kiambu law courts were, however, stopped by the High Court in Kiambu where Selahaddin sought further orders to stop his extradition.

Yesterday, his lawyers told The Standard that they were moving to court to seek orders to have the government produce him.

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