The Gulf state unlawfully arrested a Turkish aid worker at Dubai's food fair in 2018. Since then, he's been subjected to torture over his support of Syrian refugees.

Notorious for rampant human rights violations, the UAE has detained a Turkish businessman on frivolous grounds, including scrutiny over his aid work for Syrian refugees.

The Gulf country’s intelligence service members illegally detained Mehmet Ali Ozturk, and his wife Emine, in February 2018 in Dubai, where they were participating in a food fair. This is an event the couple had frequented several times in the past. 

While the UAE authorities released Emine Ozturk the next day, Mehmet Ali Ozturk was taken in for what would prove to be the long haul. According to media reports, he was tortured by UAE's secret service members on several occasions.  

In December 2018, he was even sentenced to life in prison on the grounds of clumsy charges, this according to legal experts and Turkish officials quoted in the Middle East Eye. 

"They asked me how Qatar was transferring funds to Turkey and to the fighters (in Syria). They would ask me about (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his family's role in it," he told his wife in one of the recorded conversations while in custody. 

The UAE has long been unsettled with the growing acceptance of majority-Muslim Turkey’s democratic model in the Arab world, particularly, in the oil-rich Gulf states. They also feel insecure with the growing clout of Erdogan on the global stage. 

Erdogan’s ability to simultaneously represent both Muslim aspirations and democracy “bother Arab countries” like the UAE “because they lack the very skills” of Erdogan, opined Mehmet Bulovali, an Iraqi-Kurdish political analyst, who was an advisor to Iraq's former vice president, Tariq al Hashimi, told TRT World in a past interview.

UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is seen during a welcoming banquet, after the welcome ceremony of leaders attending the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 26, 2019.
UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is seen during a welcoming banquet, after the welcome ceremony of leaders attending the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China April 26, 2019. (Nicolas Asfouri / Reuters Archive)

For many regional observers, Ozturk, a common Turkish citizen, is being punished by the UAE for their repeated failures to wrestle Erdogan from power. The UAE reportedly supported Turkey’s failed coup in July 2016 and has launched several offensives against Ankara in the battlefields of Syria and Libya. 

"He lost 25kg after the torture they subjected him to, from denailing to strappado. They would do these things when he refused to take part in a video accusing Erdogan of some crimes," Ozturk’s wife recounted.  

“Both jealousy and political competition make them bother about Turkey because Erdogan is the only man in the region from Saudi Arabia to UAE and Egypt to challenge their twisted leadership. There is no other powerful alternative,” said Bulovali.  

Detaining Ozturk at a time when he was participating in non-political and purely business activity in Dubai, indicates how Abu Dhabi's courts are politically compromised.

While the UAE interrogates and accuses the Turkish citizen of having links with Syrian opposition groups that are fighting the Assad regime, Abu Dhabi was one of the main supporters of the opposition forces including radical ones. In the early years of the Syrian civil war, the UAE vehemently opposed the Assad regime, seeking its end. 

Asking an ordinary tourist from Turkey about Erdogan’s relations with Syrian opposition groups, also proves the unfairness of Ozturk's detention.

"I don't know anything about these issues. If I said no, they would hit my head. They would beat me. They kept me in an extremely cold room with a weight put on my back, forcing me to lean, but kneeling wasn't permitted. For days I was forced to stand," went his account of torture sessions under the notorious UAE secret service, which has clandestine ties with Israel’s Mossad and other groups with a bad human rights record.

The UAE has been known for its human rights violations against its own citizens and foreign nationals, being seen as a bastion of money laundering operations. 

In January, the UAE government came under criticism as an investigative report revealed that the oil-rich kingdom was spying on its own people through the popular free messaging app, ToTok.

The social app was initiated by Breej Holding, which is affiliated to an Abu Dhabi-based cyber intelligence and hacking company, DarkMatter.

According to the New York Times investigation, the UAE—where popular messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype have been banned to prevent opposition forces from organising dissenting voices—has been working with former Israeli intelligence officers, using ToTok to invade people's mobile data and extract private information. 

The New York Times quoted an anonymous Middle Eastern digital security expert as saying that he had heard from senior UAE officials that ToTok was essentially created for the purpose of a state-sponsored spying programme, which sought to target not only the UAE, but other nations, too.

Source: TRT World