Turkish teacher allegedly kidnapped in Mongolia freed after flight grounded
A Turkish teacher, who was allegedly kidnapped in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and taken to the city's airport, has been released after authorities temporarily grounded an airplane, according to local media and a social media posting by the man.
Veysel Akcay, who thanked Mongolians for their support on Saturday, was abducted in front of his apartment on Friday morning, according to friends and family, who circulated details of the abduction on social media.
Up to five men grabbed Akcay, 50, and threw him into a minibus outside his residence, eyewitnesses said.
Ackay, who has lived in Mongolia for 24 years, is director of a school in Mongolia that is alleged to be associated with Fethullah Gulen, although teachers there denied the connection in response to questions by the AFP news agency.
Turkish authorities hold Gulen responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Turkey. The US-based Muslim cleric denies the charges
We are an independent nation. Do you think anyone can do abductions in our country?
- Baasankhuu Oktaybri, MP
Supporters of Akcay accused Turkish authorities of having a hand in his abduction, the Reuters news agency reported.
The grounded plane, with call sign TT4010, is operated by the Turkish Air Force, according to data on flight-tracking site flightradar24.com.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied the accusations during a telephone call to his Mongolian counterpart, Tsogtbaatar Damdin, according to the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"We are an independent nation. Do you think anyone can do abductions in our country?" parliamentarian Baasankhuu Oktaybri wrote on Twitter.
Akcay, who was taken for questioning by police, was later sent to a hospital for medical checks.
As he left hospital on Saturday after the checkup following his ordeal he told his supporters: "I thank you all."
When asked who had attempted to abduct him, he said: "I don't know."
'Unacceptable act of violation'
Groups of supporters had gathered at Genghis Khan airport holding signs demanding Ackay's release on Friday, and human rights activists in the country spoke out publicly, urging the government to take action against the abduction, which they believed was politically motivated.
The plane was grounded by authorities, and later left the country without Akcay in the evening.
Mongolian authorities said they do not have specific knowledge of the abduction and are conducting an investigation.
Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh said that, if the accusations were true, "it is an unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia's sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object it".
It is an unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia's sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object it
- Mongolian Deputy Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh
Batmunkh made the comments during a meeting with a diplomat from the Turkish embassy on Friday.
Akcay is a general manager at the Empathy Worldwide Educational Institution, which runs Turkish-Mongolian joint schools established by the Gulen Movement 25 years ago.
Turkey has urged Mongolia to shut down the Turkish schools since 2016.
Human rights activists warned that any involvement by Mongolian authorities in Ackay's abduction would be in direct violation of constitutional laws that bar the torture, forced abduction and other human rights crimes.
"If Mongolia was really involved, then this is a national shame," said Bolorsaikhan Badamsambuu, chairperson at Amnesty International in Mongolia.
Turkey has undertaken several overseas operations against suspected members of the Gulen movement in places such as Gabon, Kosovo and Ukraine.
Last week, a Turkish blogger accused of links to the movement was deported from Ukraine as part of an operation by Turkish intelligence services, while another person was detained in Azerbaijan recently and sent back to Turkey.