Turkish teacher kidnapped in Mongolia freed after authorities ground flight

Victim is linked to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen’s network, which Turkey blames for a failed coup, and his supporters accuse Ankara of having a hand in the abduction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 July, 2018, 10:36pm

A Turkish teacher, who was allegedly kidnapped in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator and taken to the city’s airport, has been released after authorities temporarily grounded an aeroplane, according to local media and a social media post by the man.

Veysel Akcay, who thanked Mongolians for their support on Saturday, was abducted in front of his flat on Friday morning according to friends and family, who circulated details of the abduction on the internet.

Akcay, who has lived in Mongolia for 24 years, is associated with the network of US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, which Turkish authorities hold responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

Ankara has called the group terrorists and sought to detain those involved as part of a wide-ranging operation this year.

Supporters of Akcay accused Turkish authorities of having hand in his abduction. The Turkish embassy and ambassador denied any involvement, according to a Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement.

Supporters gathered at Genghis Khan airport on Friday, holding signs demanding Akcay’s release. Human rights activists in the country urged the government to take action against the abduction, which they believed was politically motivated.

The plane was grounded by authorities, and left the country without Akcay at 9:15pm.

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Mongolian authorities said they do not have specific knowledge of the abduction and are investigating. Mongolian deputy Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh said if the accusations were true “it is an unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia’s sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object it”.

Batmunkh made the comments during a meeting with a diplomat from the Turkish embassy on Friday.

Akcay is currently a general manager at the Empathy Worldwide Educational Institution, which runs joint Turkish-Mongolian schools and was established by the Gulen Movement 25 years ago.

Turkey has urged Mongolia to shut down the Turkish schools since 2016.

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Activists warned that any involvement by Mongolian authorities in Akcay’s abduction would violate laws that bar torture, forced abduction and other human rights crimes.

“If Mongolia was really involved, then this is a national shame,” said Bolorsaikhan Badamsambuu, chairman of Amnesty International in Mongolia.