Calgary

Davud Hanci's wife says Calgary imam detained in Turkey 'a very peaceful man'

Rumeysa Hanci breaks down in tears when she recounts how she spent her 13th wedding anniversary, travelling home to Calgary from Turkey and not knowing when she would see her husband again.

Davud Hanci accused of being involved in last month's coup attempt

Rumeysa Hanci, wife of Calgary imam Davud Hanci, says she just wants her husband to come home soon. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Rumeysa Hanci breaks down in tears when she recounts how she spent her 13th wedding anniversary, travelling home to Calgary from Turkey and not knowing when she would see her husband, Davud, again.

She said Turkish authorities have not explained why they have imprisoned the imam, who has Canadian and Turkish citizenship.

Allegations in Turkish media that he was involved in last month's coup attempt make no sense to Rumeysa.

"My husband is a very gentle and kind man," she said, sitting at the dining room table of the family's northwest Calgary house, photos spread out in front of her showing the couple beaming on their wedding day and Davud's face sandwiched between those of his grinning sons.

"He's not involved with any violence. He's a very peaceful man."

Davud's job involves counselling prison inmates in Alberta to help them develop a "peaceful understanding of life," Rumeysa said.

The couple and their sons — Cemil, 8, and Vedat, 9 — travelled to Turkey last month to see Davud's ailing father in Trabzon, on the coast of the Black Sea.

They were visiting with an uncle on the night of July 23 when they got word authorities wanted to question Davud. He and his brother went to city hall to talk to police.

A photo of a wedding photo of Rumeysa Hanci, right, and imam Davud Hanci, shown in Calgary. Imam Davud Hanci has been imprisoned in Turkey. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Rumeysa, meanwhile, called her sister in Toronto, who contacted Global Affairs Canada.

Around 3 a.m. the next morning, police searched the home where the family was staying.

Rumeysa said she hasn't been able to get an explanation from Turkish authorities about what her husband is accused of doing.

But Turkish news reports say Davud has ties to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric who the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a July 15 coup attempt.

Gulen, a former ally turned critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has denied any involvement.

Mass arrests

Since a state of emergency was declared in the failed coup's aftermath, some 35,000 people have been detained for questioning.

More than 17,000 of them have been formally arrested to face trial, including soldiers, police, judges and journalists.

On Wednesday, Turkey began conditionally releasing 38,000 inmates in an apparent move to make space in prisons for those arrested in connection with the failed coup.

Rumeysa saw her husband a few days after he was detained, but there was only time for him to tell her, through cell bars across the hall, that he was OK.

She said he looked tired.

A couple of days after that, he was allowed a phone call about two or three minutes long during which various family members had a turn on the line.

"My kids, they told him that they were missing him."

That was the last time anyone in the family spoke to Davud, who Rumeysa said has since been moved to a prison some 800 kilometres away.

Embassy staff haven't seen Davud

Some representatives from the Canadian embassy tried to meet with Davud in the days following his arrest, but were unsuccessful, Rumeysa said. He has not yet been able to meet with a lawyer.

Rumeysa Hanci, wife of Calgary imam Davud Hanci, who is imprisoned in Turkey, talks about her family's situation in Calgary. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Rumeysa and the boys landed in Calgary last Tuesday. They are planning on staying with family in Toronto for a while.

In the meantime, she's tying up loose ends in Calgary and trying to navigate life without her family's sole breadwinner. Tasks like suspending Davud's car insurance and cellphone payments in a bid to save money have been a struggle. She has been exhausted and physically ill since she got back.

The boys are having a tough time, too. Rumeysa said Davud goes out of his way to make time for bike rides and soccer games, even after long days driving to and from prisons around Alberta.

"They are, of course, very sad and they need their father."

Global Affairs spokesman Austin Jean said the Canadian government remains concerned about Davud and another Turkish Canadian, Ilhan Erdem, who was arrested last month at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.

"Canadian officials are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance," he said. "In the interests of the clients, further details cannot be released."

Rumeysa said she's hopeful.

"I have a lot of faith in the Canadian government. They can do their best in their power to bring my husband home safely," she says.

"The only thing I want is my husband back."

now