High-Profile Refugee Jailed In Vancouver
Update: Peker Hires Lawyer To Fight Deportation
Turkish Contra Affair Spills Into Canada. Minister declines to comment
Vedat Peker is a household name in Turkey and, depending on what side of that country's political fence you are on, he is a crime boss or an ultra nationalist hero locking horns with Turkey’s Islamist government and religious cults.
Vedat, the older brother of a more famous Sedat Peker, a suspect of “Ergenekon” currently on trial for conspiracy to overthrow the Turkish government, has been on the run for 9 months since an arrest warrant was issued.
“Ergenekon”, the name of a Turkish legend similar to Rome’s “Romus and Romulus”, is the code name of a conspiracy allegation under which hundreds of military officers and civilians have been jailed for the past 4 years, mostly without charges or a trial. Suspects included leftist and secularist journalists, intellectuals, labour activists, and other opponents or perceived opponents of the government some of whom died in jail. Almost anyone about whom the prosecutors have received an anonymous tip may be a target of the Ergenekon investigation.
Tuncay Guney, a mentally imbalanced eccentric who first broke out the conspiracy theory to Turkish authorities, and probably the government’s only material witness, was granted refugee status in Toronto where he was also ordained as a rabbi. Some credit him with being a genius for having duped two governments and the Judaic clergy. A friend of Guney's says his mother will soon make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Somebody he met in Mexico told Peker that he would be safe in Canada and offered to take him across. He first entered the U.S. legally on his visitor’s visa and then walked across the Canada border in Blaine, Washington. He stayed with John B., a Turkish Canadian expatriate who gave him room and board and information on making a refugee application. John says he was moved by Peker's sincerity and patriotism, and is convinced of his innocence. On January 21 John went with him to the Citizenship and Immigration office on Hornby Street with an interpreter. Peker doesn't speak a word of English.
After completing the refugee application Peker was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency. Interpol had issued an all points bulletin on the basis of Turkish government’s weapons possession and drug trafficking charges. He adamantly rejects the drug-related charges. The Interpol bulletin was apparently ignored by U.S. authorities.
At a detention hearing held by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) on January 25 the adjudicator refused to grant him bail and adjourned the hearing. Peker, incensed by the allegations and his further detention, exclaimed that he’d rather go to jail in his own country than in Canada. The adjudicator offered to release him to travel back to Turkey in exchange for an indemnity not to hold Canada responsible for what might happen to him back home. Peker’s lawyer, also the duty counsel, resigned in disgust and said she wanted nothing more to do with this case.
After John told the adjudicator that IRB’s Turkish interpreter was translating incorrectly, he was kicked out of the hearing.
There is no extradition treaty between Canada and Turkey.
Turkey’s highest court has recently ruled that 10 years must be the maximum limit to detain a suspect without trial. Turkey’s Criminal Code, parts of which were adopted from Mussolini’s Italy, places the burden of proof on the accused.
Peker has signed the indemnity agreement. He’s holding John responsible for bringing him to “this God-forsaken place”.
John says that, with all the bogus refugees Canada has admitted, this is probably the only time that a genuine political refugee is being deported through the back door.
Peker’s Turkish lawyers say the charges against their clients are entirely false and politically motivated. They say the indemnity was extracted under duress, and they will bring legal action against Canada under international law.
Update: Peker says the government put psychological pressure on him to sign the release document and he regreted signing it shortly thereafter. He has now retained a lawyer to fight deportation to Turkey. Peker's Turkish lawyers sent court documents showing that he was acquitted of all criminal charges laid against him. One charge was for possession of 2.5 grams of marijuana for which he received a year of probation.
Turkish press has widely reported that "Peker has been caught in Canada", which implies that the Government of Canada is collaborating with Turkish authorities.
I contacted Public Safety Minister's office, but Minister Vic Toews declined to comment and referred me to CBSA. CBSA told me that I should contact Interpol to get a copy of their bulletin, and they cannot release any information unless Mr. Peker signs a waiver of his rights under privacy laws.