Time for UAE to pay for its crimes against Mehmet Ali Öztürk - YASIN AKTAY

Time for UAE to pay for its crimes against Mehmet Ali Öztürk

The fact that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) considers the democratic developments in the Middle East as a threat has led it to adopt a scheming style of politics, where it supports and organizes coups everywhere. Underhandedly backing terrorism through all sorts of lies and violence is an inevitable part of such scheming. Labelling democratic forces as “terrorist,” and committing crimes directly in their name to have them convicted if necessary, to achieve this, is a result of such scheming operations. Hence, we are able to see them organize Al-Shabaab terrorism in Somalia, as well as similar terrorist organizations in Syria, fight against the Houthis in Yemen while cooperating with them elsewhere, betraying both its ally Saudi Arabia and the legitimate government they officially support.

To provide an excuse for the putschist Khalifa Haftar in Libya to attack, it gives him the idea to label “terrorist” the representatives of the legitimate government in Tripoli, also recognized by the UN. In the meantime, it tries to organize the coup against the legitimate government on Haftar’s lines, together with the most bigoted, takfiri Madkhali groups as well as the mercenary troops from Sudan, Africa.

While such operations conducted by the UAE are being revealed daily, it is also openly attacking Turkey. As the most successful representation of democracy, which is the UAE’s greatest nightmare, Turkey stands as an example for all Arab nations. However, Turkey is not concerned about setting an example for others. It wants and implements democracy because it considers its own people worthy. Democracy on its own is the UAE’s nightmare. What the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash refers to as the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing other than democracy. The UAE’s nightmare is not the Muslim Brotherhood but democracy. If it wants to do itself a favor, the UAE needs to overcome this fear of democracy.

I had mentioned in a previous column that part of the crimes it committed as a result of this fear are currently being addressed by lawyer Gülden Sönmez. Along with a group of lawyers from the U.K. and the U.S., Sönmez appealed to the international criminal court a while ago regarding by Mohammad bin Zayed and Mohammed Dahlan’s crimes against humanity in Yemen. The case on this matter is ongoing in the U.K.

Last week, lawyers Sönmez and Mete Gençer applied to the UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention citing the crimes against Turkish businessman Mehmet Ali Öztürk and his wife Emine Öztürk.

Öztürk and his wife, who visited Dubai on Feb. 20, 2018 for a food expo, were taken hostage by officials, who approached them while at the lobby of the hotel they were staying, placed a sack over their heads, took them somewhere in the desert, where they were interrogated and forced to give some statements under torture. Despite the lack of evidence regarding any of the crimes charged against him, and in fact, though the UAE had no connection to these crimes, he was sentenced for life based on trumped-up evidence and allegations, and without any proper right to defense or a translator.

Öztürk was made to lay in cold water during his interrogation, with an iron tied to his back, and his arms stretched out in front, while he was not allowed to sleep for three days. Whenever he fell, they would pour cold water over him and beat him. Despite telling them repeatedly that he experienced cerebral palsy, he was lifted up from the ground with kicks and punches to the head. He had something like a towel placed over his head, with water poured at mouth level to drown him. As he could not breathe, he fainted a few times during the torture, kept in the cold, held in a tiny cell for lengthy periods of time, and besides being starved, he received unknown injections while his hands and feet were tied. During these tortures throughout the 52 days, he was constantly beaten and insulted. Whenever he fell during torture, he was spritzed with sprays that gave an ice sensation. He survived through prayer. Of course, he lost 25 kilograms during this process.

When he refused to talk against Turkey and say what they demanded him to say despite all the torture he experienced, one day they showed him a photo of his son Abdullah, who is studying at a university in the U.S. Abdullah was photographed going in and out of his home. They used these photos to threaten him, saying they will kill his son. Around about the same time, the FBI in the U.S. also raided his son Abdullah Öztürk’s student house, interrogated him and prevented him from returning to Turkey for some time.

This detail is extremely important, because the U.S. also joined this torture and human rights violation. He was additionally interrogated and tortured for his anti-U.S. comments and posts on his social media accounts regarding U.S. policies and crimes. He stated that he realized there was a constant exchange of information and documents between the U.S. and intelligence during this process. Öztürk’s U.S.-related posts on social media are generally critical posts about U.S. weapons falling into the hands of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as these weapons led to the deaths of civilians. Öztürk declared the tortures he suffered when he appeared in prosecution for the first time in the UAE, but no action was taken. However, this prosecutor told Öztürk that the U.S.’s Istanbul consulate general is closely interested in him, and that they gathered information about him in Turkey through the Consulate, and shared this information with the UAE, and even sent a dossier.

When Öztürk refused to accept what was demanded and would not talk to the cameras despite the torture he had experienced, he was taken to court. A sham trial and trumped-up file were then enough to sentence him to life on the grounds that he supports terrorism. Öztürk, who was remanded in a cell for one whole year, was then sent to prison, where he has continued to be treated badly. The appeal states the conditions at Al Whatba Prison are harsh and poor, and that there are many complaints regarding the inhumane conditions here. The UAE is continuing to systematically commit the violations subject to complaint, and there are a vast number of complaints with UN mechanisms in this regard. Numerous foreigners are similarly captured and taken to unknown locations, interrogated under torture, with no contact at all with the outside world.

There is no doubt that the UAE is committing crimes against humanity here. However, we also see that the U.S.’s Istanbul consulate general is involved in this crime. Thus, it seems that the U.S. Istanbul consulate general is also going to be included in the price Öztürk’s lawyers are asking the UAE to pay.

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