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Turks spooked by 90s-style disappearances

The dark days of Turkey in the 1990s could be creeping back as at least four men have gone missing under similar suspicious circumstances in Ankara since March.
Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the dismissal of civil servants following a post-coup emergency decree, in the Kurdish-dominated southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar - RTX3BUBQ

Those alarmed by Turkey’s dizzying descent into authoritarianism had found bleak solace in the fact that unlike the 1990s, when the conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers Party was at its peak, at least the people aren't disappearing or losing their lives in extrajudicial killings.

That may be changing: The New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Turkish authorities to urgently investigate what it called the "abduction and possible enforced disappearance" of at least four men in Ankara since March. One of them, a former school teacher, was located in police custody after 42 days. An eyewitness saw men who identified themselves as police nab Onder Asan in April, forcing him out of a taxi and shoving him into a van. His family finally learned of his whereabouts only after a call from the police. He has since remained in custody pending trial for his alleged terror links, which is shorthand these days for connections to Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric who is accused of plotting last summer's coup attempt. Asan said he was held in a secret location where he was interrogated and tortured for 42 days. He has filed a criminal complaint.

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