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Kyrgyz Officials Deny Role In Kidnapping Of Educator By Turkish Intelligence

Supporters of Orhan Inandi rally in Bishkek on July 7.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz officials have denied claims they colluded with Turkish intelligence to abduct a Turkish-Kyrgyz educator who disappeared from Bishkek last month.

Turkey’s latest extrajudicial rendition is causing blowback in Kyrgyzstan, where parliament grilled security officials and the government on July 7 about their complicity or incompetence in the case of Orhan Inandi.

Inandi, the head of the Sapat educational network in Kyrgyzstan, went missing in the Kyrgyz capital late on May 31 under mysterious circumstances. His wife has suggested he was being held at the Turkish Embassy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 5 said agents from the MIT intelligence agency had abducted Inandi and brought him to Turkey, describing a “genuine and patient” operation.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, the Turkish president described Inandi as “a top Central Asian leader” of a movement led by U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a friend-turned-foe of Erdogan whom Ankara blames for a deadly 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey has cracked down hard on alleged members of the Gulen movement, which it considers a terrorist organization, arresting tens of thousands of people and purging the civil service and military. It has also pursued the Gulen movement abroad. Erdogan admitted more than 100 people with alleged links to the Gulen movement had been brought to Turkey from other countries.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement on July 7 that Turkish and Kyrgyz authorities “abducted, forcibly disappeared, and extrajudicially transferred a dual Turkish-Kyrgyz national living in Bishkek to Turkey.”

“That Inandi, a dual Turkish-Kyrgyz national, could be abducted and missing for weeks on Kyrgyz soil only to be illegally removed from the country by Turkey’s intelligence services, suggests the Kyrgyz government is either unwilling or unable to stand up to Ankara or directly colluded with them,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Erbol Sultanbaev, a spokesman for Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, denied authorities were involved in the abduction, calling the charges “completely absurd." In a statement, the president’s office said they had issued a formal complaint to the Turkish ambassador about the issue. It added that there had been three prior attempts to kidnap the educator and all had been thwarted.

During a parliamentary questioning on the kidnapping, lawmaker after lawmaker expressed concern about the abduction and grilled top security officials about the failure. Several lawmakers called on officials to resign.

"If the intelligence agency of some country is working on our territory, we definitely know about this. There were no Turkish agents in Kyrgyzstan," said Interior Minister Ulan Niyazbekov.

The head of the border service told deputies he had no idea how Inandi was shuttled out of the country, adding that every plane arriving and departing from Kyrgyzstan was checked.

Inandi, 53, has lived in Kyrgyzstan since 1995 and holds dual Turkish-Kyrgyz citizenship.

In June, Kyrgyzstan’s deputy foreign affairs minister, Aibek Artykbaev, told a parliament hearing that in 2019 the Turkish government had requested İnandi’s extradition. But the Kyrgyz government refused at that time because of Inandi’s Kyrgyz citizenship.

Following his disappearance, protests demanding an effective investigation took place almost daily in the Kyrgyz capital.

Human Rights Watch said last month that if Inandi were returned to Turkey, he would face arbitrary detention and an unfair trial on terrorism charges, as well as possible ill-treatment and torture.

During the past five years, Turkey has called on dozens of countries to shut down hundreds of schools and educational institutions linked to the Gulen movement, including those in Kyrgyzstan.