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Who is Harun Aydin, the Turk caught up in DP Ruto’s abortive trip to Uganda?

POLITICS
By Allan Mungai and Brian Otieno | August 6th 2021

President Yoweri Museveni and DP William Ruto flag off the construction of Kapchorwa-Suam Road, Kapchorwa, Uganda. [Courtesy]

The revelation that a Turkish man was in Deputy President William Ruto’s planned entourage to Uganda on Monday has caused debate in the country, especially after it emerged he bears a similar name with the one charged with terror in Germany two decades ago.

Before August 2, Harun Aydin lived a life of relative obscurity. By then, he had been in Kenya for more than six weeks. He would be thrust in the public limelight after the DP’s trip to Uganda aborted.

But is the Turkish man close to Dr Ruto or is he an innocent victim? Or was it a case of mistaken identity?

On October 17, 2001, almost two decades ago, another Harun Aydin was arrested at Frankfurt Airport in Germany on suspicion of planning terrorism and for being a member of a terrorist group with an Islamic fundamentalist background.

The arrest of the 29-year-old man shook Germany and drew interest from the US where a few weeks earlier on September 11, Al Qaeda terrorists had struck down twin towers in New York.

The Turk was arrested as he was about to board an Iran Air flight to Tehran with luggage containing camouflage clothing, chemical-weapons protection suit, ski mask and materials to produce an explosive detonator.

The story was published by media across Europe and the New York Times and Los Angeles Times in US.

A German Court freed Aydin after two weeks after prosecutors failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was planning violent acts.

This arrest, seemingly unrelated, would have an implication in Kenya two decades later and would fling Aydin at the centre of attention.

However, evidence available points to the possibility of two different Aydins. The man arrested in 2001 in Germany had lived there since 1979. He grew up in the city of Augsburg where he studied.

DP William Ruto with President Yoweri Museveni at State House, Entebbe. October 8, 2015. [DPPS]

At the time of his arrest, Aydin was a medical student at the University of Cologne. Since 1991, he had lived with his wife and two daughters aged six and nine in Longerich, Cologne. Aydin works on Kalifatsstaat’s weekly newspaper and his defense for travelling to Tehran was that it was work-related.

By all indications, Harun Aydin is a common name in Turkey.

A google search brought up at least 20 different Harun Aydin of different ages and professions, spread out from sport, geology, medicine, music and business. There were 141 returns from LinkedIn and a similar number on Facebook.

It is instructive that the ages of the two Aydins are also different.

Details from the Department of Immigration indicate that the Turkish national in Kenya was born in 1966. That is six years earlier than the man who was arrested in Germany.

However, the Ministry of Interior insists that it has to get to the bottom of the terrorism links.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said it was part of government protocol to investigate any terror link.

“When this matter has been brought into public light, obviously you scrutinise a lot of the allegations being made. We’ve picked the credentials of that passenger and we are checking with the embassy and with everybody whether those claims are true or not and we well be able to say our findings shortly, once we get clarity,” Kibicho said.

Interior PS Karanja Kibicho. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

On Tuesday, the Turkish Embassy said the businessman has no criminal record and was in the country legally.

Aydin acquired a work permit in Kenya in June which is valid until 2023.

His work permit lists the businessman as running Unit 2HA Investments Energy Africa Limited.

Ruto on Wednesday said the terror claims were malicious and that Aydin was an investor.

“I don’t know what to call it, stupidity or ignorance. When they see someone with me they jump to conclusions and think up ways to tarnish people reputations. What do you think investor thinks now?” Ruto asked.?

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