BISHKEK/July 5 (The Bulletin) — After a month of silence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that his security forces had kidnapped dissident businessman Orhan Inandi in Bishkek and flown him to Ankara.
The admission raises questions as to how much the Kyrgyz authorities knew of the operation to kidnap on May 31 one of Central Asia’s most high-profile Gulenists. Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, who was in Ankara for talks with Mr Erdogan in June, has not referenced the kidnapping in public but Kamchybek Tashiev, chairman of Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Committee has denied any Kyrgyz involvement.
Mr Erdogan blames Gulenists for a failed coup attempt in 2016 and has spent the past five years tracking down and imprisoning thousands of them. At a press conference in Ankara he confirmed the kidnapping of Mr Inandi.
“Through its genuine and patient work, MIT [Turkish security services] has brought FETO’s Central Asia chief Orhan Inandi back to Turkey,” he said.
Gulenists are the followers of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and FETO is the term that Mr Erdogan uses to describe what he has dubbed as its terrorist network.
Human rights activists have said that Mr Inandi is at risk of torture. A photo released at the press conference showed him looking gaunt.
Mr Inandi moved to Central Asia in the 1990s to pursue business interests and to set up a network of schools and universities.
Since coming to power in a coup last year, Mr Japarov has burnished his hardman image with visits to Mr Erdogan and to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also approved the expropriation of Kyrgyzstan’s largest gold mine from its Canadian owners.
At the start of the coup Mr Japarov had been broken out of prison, where he had been imprisoned for kidnapping.
>> This story was first published in issue 491 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin