0 4 minuti 4 anni

Emine Ozturk and her colleagues were sipping coffee at a luxurious hotel in Dubai, where they were attending a food trade fair, when a group of people suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

Men in plain clothes – jeans and thobes, the traditional ankle-length robes common across the region – began asking about her husband. Without showing any identification or a warrant, they forcibly took Emine and her husband, Mehmet Ali Ozturk, from their hotel and put them in black SUVs.

Before they put a bag on her head, she screamed to her colleagues to let the Turkish embassy know about the detention. The two were then taken to a facility near Abu Dhabi, where they were kept overnight.

The next morning, Emine was brought to the airport alone for deportation. The man who took her to the gate said only one thing in Turkish: “Say hi to Erdogan.”

Though Emine had been freed, there was no word of Mehmet Ali. Upon her return to Turkey, Emine and her husband’s friends desperately pursued every route in an attempt to uncover his whereabouts.

mehmet ali ozturk
Ozturk outside the food fair in Abu Dhabi on 19 February, 2018, a day before his arrest (Supplied)

“He was there after obtaining a proper visa from the UAE authorities,” Emine said. “It wasn’t his first time. We visit almost every year for the fair.”

Turkish officials delivered several formal diplomatic notes to their Emirati colleagues, who insisted that they didn’t know anything about the incident.

It was February 2018, and Turkish officials weren’t surprised by the response they got from the United Arab Emirates.

The counties had had a very combative relationship since the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, when Turkish officials began to publicly question whether the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, had anything to do with the conspiracy.

Furthermore, similar incidents had happened in the past, with Turkish citizens kept in custody for a couple of months to put pressure on Ankara. All of them, however, were later released. But this was different.

Mehmet Ali Ozturk, a businessman specialising in food trade who is in his late 40s, has been kept in UAE custody for nearly two and a half years.

In December 2018, a local court in the United Arab Emirates sentenced him to life in prison for allegedly providing material support to an armed group fighting the Syrian government, and posting terror propaganda on social media. The UAE’s supreme court upheld the judgement last year.

Ozturk’s supporters say his case involves severe violations of human rights and rule of law, and illustrates how regular citizens can be caught up in state rivalries.

Middle East Eye has approached the UAE’s embassy in Ankara and deputy foreign minister for comment, without response by the time of publication.

Sorgente: The Turkish aid worker tortured in the UAE, pushed to slander Erdogan | Middle East Eye