A group of Turkish citizens who oppose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have filed a writ of mandamus with Brazilian courts to demand that their asylum claim in the country be tried quickly.
Around 100 people linked to Hizmet, a movement led by cleric Fethullah Gülen and banned by the Erdogan government, are awaiting a decision on their asylum claims, many of which were issued more than three years ago.
Thus, the lawsuit asks the National Committee for Refugees (Conare) – a body linked to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and responsible for accepting or refusing asylum requests – to speed up its procedures to immediately adjudicate the requests.
In 2019, the Turkish government requested the extradition of naturalized Brazilian Turk Ali Sipahi for his ties to Hizmet.
Sipahi was preemptively arrested in Brazil, but the STF ended up rejecting the extradition request, saying that in Turkey there would be no guarantee of due process and stressing that the Erdogan government was questioned for “lesser attitudes towards democracy”.
A report from the European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union) from October 2020 indicates that in Turkey, “there is a serious setback in respect for democratic standards, the rule of law and of fundamental freedoms “. The US State Department also points out in a 2019 report that an anti-terrorism law in Turkey “restricted fundamental freedoms and undermined the rule of law.”
Despite this, Conare members were told that the agency is still awaiting the conclusion of an investigation into the situation in Turkey to determine whether there is indeed political persecution in the country.
According to data from the council itself and the Ministry of Justice, 234 Turkish refugee claims are pending a decision – in the past three years, only one Turkish claimant has found refuge in Brazil, according to the platform.
In 2020, three requests for Turkish refuge were rejected by Conare; in 2019, seven cases were closed or closed, and in 2018, only one case was recognized and 18 were closed or closed.
By comparison, in the United States, 1,799 Turks were granted political refuge in 2019, mostly members of Hizmet. In 2018, there were 501 and in 2017, 28.
“The whole world recognizes that there is this persecution, but the Brazilian government says it must wait for more information on the case,” says Adriano Pistorelo, lawyer at the Migrant Assistance Center (CAM). “The delay makes the Turkish community very vulnerable, which fears extradition, even after the STF admitted that there is political persecution of the community by the Turkish state.”
In response to the mandamus mandate of the family, Federal Judge Iolete de Oliveira ruled on January 25 that Conare complete the asylum process within 180 days.
The case has been ready for a vote since May 2020, but is not yet on the agenda of the body’s meetings. There is also a notice from the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office on February 8 defending the conclusion of the trial within 90 days.
Conare demanded that the injunction be dismissed, saying it must “update country of origin information” to verify whether the asylum seekers’ report matches the current situation in Turkey.
The agency also said in a letter that “the study of the country of origin versus Turkey is still being updated and a lot of information is still being collected.”
Conare said she strictly follows the chronological order of requests, from oldest to newest, but that there are exceptions, for example, where there is a risk of a squeeze-out action.
Asked by Folha, the justice ministry said the law establishes the confidentiality of asylum claims and therefore the portfolio could not give more information on the status of the case.
President Erdogan and cleric Gülen were allies until 2013, when the Turkish leader turned on Hizmet after a series of corruption investigations targeted government allies and even the politician’s family.
With that, Erdogan went on to accuse Gülen of remaining infiltrated in the judiciary and the police, with the aim of overthrowing him.
From then on, the Turkish government began to harass members of Hizmet, which had thousands of schools and pre-university courses in Turkey and around the world, in addition to millions of police, academy, Turkish media and justice.
Erdogan came to regard Hizmet as a terrorist organization. He closed schools and intervened in media vehicles linked to the group. On July 15, 2016, there was an attempted coup against Erdogan, ordered by the military. The clashes left more than 250 dead and 2,000 injured.
For lawyers, there are no objective criteria for determining whether an organization is a terrorist. In the case of sanctions, Brazil follows the lists of the UN Security Council – and Hizmet is not.
According to the Turkish government, the coup attempt was orchestrated by supporters of Gülen, who lives in exile in the United States. The clerk denies being involved in the action.
According to a State Department report on human rights, since the 2016 coup attempt, “authorities have dismissed or suspended more than 45,000 police and military personnel and 130,000 civil servants, dismissed a third magistrates, detained or arrested more than 80,000 citizens and closed other 1,500 NGOs alleging terrorist activities, mainly for alleged links with the ecclesiastical movement Fethullah Gülen, which the government accuses of having been the architect of the coup attempt and was referred to by the Turkish government as a “Fethullah (Fetus) terrorist organization”.
In an email response sent to Folha, Turkish Ambassador to Brazil Murat Yavuz Ates said that “unfortunately the Feto members are trying to infiltrate Brazil using asylum claims as a method”.
“These terrorist elements should have no refuge at all. We must not forget that Feto also represents a threat for the countries where they are active, ”said the ambassador. Turkey is appealing STF’s decision to deny Sipahi’s extradition.
According to the ambassador, Hizmet, using schools and courses, “brainwashed young minds”, disguised as training activities, “indoctrinated a large group of radical supporters”.
According to him, these members are following Gülen’s orders, “have no legal or moral standards” and the movement is responsible for the attempted coup in Turkey. “Over the past four years, the fight against Feto inside and outside Turkey has been one of Turkey’s top priorities.”
Father Marcelo Marostica, director of Caritas Arquidiocesana and alternate member of Conare, reports that civil society has already sent a letter on the situation of the Turks and that the Public Defender’s Office has also issued an opinion asking for priority – to no avail.
“They say you can’t skip the line, they’re waiting for research, and they all have their hands tied,” Marostica says.
One of the asylum seekers, who filed a writ of mandamus, fears being arrested due to an extradition request from the Erdogan government, as was the case with Sipahi in 2019. He does not want to s ‘identify for fear of reprisals against relatives who still live in Turkey.
After the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan, the applicant’s business in Turkey was confiscated and his wife, who was a schoolteacher, was fired and her diploma revoked. The applicant was in the United States and did not return to Turkey for fear of being arrested.
The wife had to travel illegally to Greece with her two children, one aged seven and the other two months old.
The couple stayed two years apart until they could meet again in August 2018 in Brazil, where their third child was born. “I have a business, I create jobs and I contribute to Brazil, but we can be extradited at any time, I’m very afraid.”