Davud Hanci, Calgary man detained over Turkey coup plot, is innocent, family and friends say
Turkish media circulate photo purporting to show Canadian imam with alleged coup mastermind
Friends of a Calgary man detained in Turkey on accusations he was a leader of the recent coup attempt say Davud Hanci is innocent — and they're worried for his safety.
Hanci, who works as an imam for Correctional Service Canada and the Alberta correctional services, went to Turkey with his family on July 7 to visit his ailing father.
He was detained and accused of working for U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey alleges orchestrated the failed July 15 military coup. Gulen has repeatedly denied the claims.
Emre Kahveci, a longtime family friend, told CBC News that Hanci himself is against the coup.
"We do condemn any attempted coup, any action taken against the democratically elected government," he told CBC News on Sunday.
There is a picture circulating in the Turkish media of a man purported to be Hanci apparently handing out money with Gulen. But friends say it's not Hanci. CBC News has been unable to verify the identity of the man in the photo.
Hanci has seen Gulen at religious retreats, Kahveci said, but he has never met him in person.
"That person [in the picture], we don't know who he is. [He] just looks like Mr. Hanci," Kahveci said.
"It looks like they have arrested him, and then they had to find a story to put behind the arrest," he alleged.
Kahveci and Hanci belong to a group called the Inter-Cultural Dialogue Institute of Calgary (IDI Calgary), which follows some of the same ideals as a U.S. group called the Alliance for Shared Values, affiliated with Gulen.
"Mr. Gulen represents peace and dialogue and tolerance between people of all races and religions. I myself am a part of an organization that follows these ideals," Kahveci said.
"It's unbelievable that something like this were to happen to one of our members," he added.
Now, Hanci's friends fear for the worst.
"If you're being run in state of emergency and being run by martial law, and capital punishment comes back … you would think somebody is going to be beheaded," said Kahveci.
Concerns for wife, sons
Kahveci is appealing to the Canadian government to take necessary steps to ensure Hanci is released.
A spokeswoman for Global Affairs in Canada says the department is "aware of a Canadian dual-citizen detained in Turkey'' and that Canadian consular officials are providing assistance.
Meanwhile, family in Toronto is trying to get Hanci's wife, Rumeysa, and her two sons out of the country.
"As far as we know, at the moment she is OK. But she does feel in danger," said Rumeysa's brother, Selman Durmus.
Durmus said he's watched Turkish media reports calling Hanci "the right-hand man" of Gulen. But he categorically rejects those claims.
"Media sources are saying 'the mastermind of the coup attack.' ... This guy is just a regular guy. He just went to visit his father. None of the things that they're claiming make any sense."
Turkey has imposed a three-month state of emergency and detained or dismissed tens of thousands of people in the military, the judiciary, the education system and other institutions.
Turkish leaders allege that supporters of Gulen infiltrated state agencies and groomed loyalists in a vast network of private schools as part of an elaborate, long-term plan to take over the country.
"We're trying to sort things out because the lives of the kids and the whole family is in danger right now," Durmus said. "Whoever reports the followers of Fethullah Gulen ... they're attacking innocent people."
Turkey announced Saturday it had seized more than 2,250 social, educational or health care institutions and facilities, claiming they pose a threat to national security. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said authorities had taken around 13,000 people into custody over the coup attempt, including 8,831 soldiers. He pledged they would have a fair trial.
Global rights group Amnesty International said Sunday it has received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt. "It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held," Amnesty's Europe director, John Dalhuisen, said in a statement.
On Sunday afternoon, about 150 people gathered at Calgary City Hall to oppose the coup and show their support for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Erdogan — we love him, we support him, we stand behind him," said rally organizer Mahmoud Mourra, who described himself as a Calgarian Muslim who supports freedom and democracy.
Mourra said he knows Hanci personally, and will wait for justice to take its course in Turkey.
"We don't know what happened.… There is a judge in Turkey who will decide if he's innocent or not," he said.
With files from Reuters and the CBC's Terri Trembath and Meghann Dionne