Missing Turkish teacher ‘deported from Pakistan’

Vice-principal at school accused of links to cleric Gulen deported to Turkey weeks after abduction, says family.

Mesut Kacmaz with former pakistan pm
Kacmaz, pictured with a former Pakistan prime minister, had applied for asylum, according to a colleague [Al Jazeera]

Islamabad, Pakistan – A Turkish school official, who disappeared three weeks ago, has been deported from Pakistan after being accused by Ankara of having links with the banned Gulen movement, the official’s colleagues told Al Jazeera.

Mesut Kacmaz, vice-principal of the PakTurk International Schools and Colleges, was abducted from his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on September 27 along with his wife and two children, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had said in a statement at the time.

The deportation allegedly took place on Saturday morning. Pakistan’s interior ministry, which handles deportation cases, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

“They were taken to Islamabad and were told Turkish embassy staff would talk to them before being released,” Mehmut Ali, a director at the school network, told Al Jazeera, citing a conversation with Kacmaz’s daughters who were with him at the time.

“At Islamabad airport, they were handed over to Turkish policemen. They were taken into an unmarked, luxury middle-sized aircraft, which was empty.”

The daughters said the family was first flown to Istanbul after which the parents were separated and flown to Ankara, where they remain in police custody.

PakTurk has denied any affiliation with Gulen or his Hizmet movement [PakTurk]
PakTurk has denied any affiliation with Gulen or his Hizmet movement [PakTurk]

On Monday, pro-government Turkish newspaper Gunes also reported that Kacmaz and his wife Meral were handed over to Turkish authorities on Saturday and “were interrogated in Ankara”.

Kacmaz has been accused by the Turkish government of having links to Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader who lives in self-imposed exile in the US. His group has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup, which killed around 300 people.

On September 27, Kacmaz, his wife and two daughters were “picked up by over 20 armed people, including some women who were in plain clothes”, the HRCP statement said.

“The family was roughed up, hooded, handcuffed and taken in a wagon.”

According to his daughters, they were held in a single room for the next 17 days before being driven to the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities have not officially admitted to having arrested the family and, according to Kacmaz’s daughters, they were never charged during this time.

“Whoever did this [abduction], if there were any official documents related to Kacmaz’s alleged crime, then they could go to court, which could have ordered his deportation officially,” said Ali, the director at PakTurk schools.

According to Ali, he and Kacmaz are among several PakTurk employees who applied for asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Their asylum-seeking status – under which they are protected from deportation to countries where they may face persecution – was extended until October 11, 2018, Ali said.

UNHCR refused to comment on the case but did confirm to Al Jazeera in a statement that it was “in regular communication with the Government of Pakistan on issues of refugee protection in Pakistan”.

“It is our standard practice around the world to call on governments to ensure respect for international refugee law and the principle of non-refoulement (meaning not to send back refugees and asylum seekers to their country of origin against their will),” the statement said.

Turkish staff expelled

Turkey has remained in a state of emergency since the coup, jailing thousands of activists, academics and journalists whom the government accuses of supporting the coup.

In November 2016, Pakistan ordered all Turkish teachers associated with the PakTurk school system to leave the country. The teachers and their families, numbering about 450 people, were given three days’ notice to leave, the school said in a statement at the time.

According to Ali, families of the Turkish PakTurk employees still living in Pakistan were terrified that they could be next.

“I do not have any fears,” he said. “I am ready to die. I don’t think that the Pakistani government or officials will do anything to us … But unofficially people can do anything to us.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera