Turkish journalist fears kidnapping in Ukraine - report

Turkish journalist Yunus Erdoğdu is fearing for his freedom, locking himself away in an apartment in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pursues those accused of belonging to the secretive network of an Islamic preacher.

Erdoğdu, who once worked for a news outlet with links to Fethullah Gülen, is a self-professed follower of the preacher, who Turkey accuses of masterminding a failed military coup in July 2016, RadioFreeEurope reported.

Erdoğdu remains in his apartment because Ukrainian authorities recently arrested and extradited two fellow Turks – a journalist and businessman – despite them possessing valid work and residency permits. Erdoğdu, who lives in a modest high-rise apartment with his wife and three of his children, said he might be next. 

The forced repatriations are part of Erdoğan’s targeting of supporters of Gülen, who lives in a Pennsylvania mansion and was once a close political ally of the president. Turkish officials are aggressively pursuing members of the group across the globe, with dozens nabbed and forcibly returned. Tens of thousands are incarcerated in Turkish jails accused of terrorism, including journalists, academics and teachers. Many have not been officially charged.

The recent deportations from Ukraine, which lies across the Black Sea from Turkey, has fuelled speculation of “a secret quid pro quo” between their leaders and evoked comparisons of extrajudicial kidnappings conducted by the CIA after 9/11, RadioFreeEurope said.

Erdoğdu has lived and worked in Ukraine for 13 years, mostly as a reporter for the Cihan news agency, which was seized by Turkish authorities in March 2016 as part of a crackdown on the Gülen movement and its affiliated companies.

The journalist, who has appeared on a leaked list of Turkish dissidents in Ukraine who Turkey wants deported, describes himself as a proud “follower and supporter” of Gülen, but insists he is no terrorist. He describes Gülen as his spiritual leader, saying he follows a tolerant Islam that espouses education, hard work and modesty.

"The streets are too dangerous for me," Erdoğdu said, gesturing to the world outside his window. Those fears may well be founded.