Malaysian police confirmed on Friday that they have detained a former vice chair of a university in Turkey for being a threat to the country's national security, bringing the total number of Turkish nationals apprehended in the country this week to three.
Unlike earlier detentions where suspects were detained for "funding Daesh," Malaysian authorities announced that all three men have been linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is blamed for the attempted coup in Turkey last year.
İsmet Özçelik, who spent 50 days in Sungai Buloh prison last year, was taken back into custody on Thursday after being categorized as a national security threat, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur. Abu Bakar said the arrest was made at a gas station in the eastern state of Pahang. "Özçelik was detained in connection to activities threatening Malaysia's national security," he said.
Meanwhile, Bakar declined to answer a question posed to him as to whether Özçelik had previously been linked with Daesh or any other terror groups before this. "He was not involved in terror activities throughout his 12-year stay here before this. But when he began to get involved [with FETÖ], we acted. Prior to this, he also caused trouble in the immigration department. We have enough reasons to take action against him [now]," Bakar stressed.
The police chief denied that his department had acted on orders from the Turkish government to detain Özçelik and two other Turkish nationals, Turgay Karaman and İhsan Aslan, who were detained late Tuesday. "We have our own laws to protect our national security. We have the right to determine who we want to arrest and detain," he said. "Anyone who threatens our national security is not welcome here."
Karaman and Aslan were detained under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
Previously, Özçelik was detained on Dec. 13, 2016, after he allegedly stopped immigration officers, reportedly in plainclothes, from checking his passport at his son's residence in Kuala Lumpur.
After the detention, he was held for 50 days with multiple bail requests getting quashed by a lower Malaysian court. He was released on Jan. 31, 2017, after he managed to secure UN refugee status, which provided him with immunity against detention without trial.
Özçelik used to work as the vice chair of a university in Turkey before he was fired from his job. He was a "visiting" lecturer at the Time International School where Turgay Aslan presided, according to media reports.
Turkish media outlets say the school is one of many across the world that is run by FETÖ.
FETÖ, headed by U.S.-based retired preacher Fetullah Gülen, is accused of multiple coup attempts, money laundering, illegal wiretapping, sham trials, fraud and several other charges.
Gülen himself faces life imprisonment for his role in the crimes. Turkey says Gülen, who posed as leader of a religious charity, sought to seize power once he garnered enough followers.
For decades, the terrorist group disguised its members in critical posts, managing to infiltrate state institutions, such as the military, bureaucracy and judiciary.
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