OTTAWA – Supporters of Turkey’s former ambassador to Canada are calling on the Turkish government to prove he was linked to a failed coup attempt last month or let him go free.
Tuncay Babali was reportedly detained a week ago amid allegations he was among those involved in the military coup that collapsed on July 15.
The Turkish government has since purged and arrested hundreds of public servants — Babali among them — whom it alleges were tied to the Fethullah Gulen movement that it accuses of being behind the attempted overthrow.
Babali, ambassador to Canada between 2012 and 2014, was seen as one of Turkey’s most accomplished young diplomats. His posting to Canada was his last overseas posting before returning to Ankara to serve in the foreign ministry.
The government relieved him of his duties 11 days after the coup attempt, then put him in jail on Aug. 18, said Gregg Roman, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.
The Turkish embassy in Ottawa did not have a comment on Babali’s detention, aside from saying that Babali had not been arrested and was therefore not facing criminal charges.
Roman said the Turkish government should either provide incontrovertible evidence against Babali or release him.
“He’s indicative of the 10,000-plus who have been put in jail” following the coup, Roman said.
“This is democracy at its worst.”
Roman said Babali was seen as a linchpin in the relationship between Turkey and the West and his arrest, among others, is now a strain on that relationship.
Bessma Momani, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, tweeted that Turkey should present solid proof against Babali and not convict him through guilt by association.
She said Babali was a respected and member of the diplomatic corps in the national capital, and a real friend to academics like herself who had an interest in Turkey.