Accused of obstructing authorities, Turkish academic thrown in jail, denied bail

Turkish academic Ismet Ozcelik, 57, is shown here during his arrest on December 13, 2016 after Immigration officers seized his passport, despite him having a valid social visit pass for entry into Malaysia. — Picture courtesy of Suheyl Ozcelik
Turkish academic Ismet Ozcelik, 57, is shown here during his arrest on December 13, 2016 after Immigration officers seized his passport, despite him having a valid social visit pass for entry into Malaysia. — Picture courtesy of Suheyl Ozcelik

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — A visiting director of a Turkish university has been stuck in the Sungai Buloh Prison for the past 25 days for allegedly obstructing civil servants from carrying out their duty.

Lawyers for Ismet Ozcelik are now seeking the renewal of his social visit pass in order to secure his release from prison for an offence that he has yet to undergo trial or convicted for.

Muhammad Faizal Faiz Hasani, one of Ismet’s lawyers, today told Malay Mail Online that he had met with the prosecution and the magistrate yesterday to brief them on his client’s two letters to the prison authorities.

According to Muhammad Faizal, the Magistrate’s Court here had denied Ismet bail after yesterday’s discussion because the Immigration Department had cancelled his social visit pass just a day after his arrest on December 13 last year.

“Ismet needs to get DG Immigration to re-validate his visit pass and ascertain why Immigration cancelled the pass. If it is at the request of Turkish Embassy, why and on what grounds.

“The magistrate may let us have his passport for a few days to renew with Immigration if we so request; the magistrate will only release Ismet on bail after his social visit pass is renewed,” he said when describing the court’s views on the matter.

“Meantime, Ismet will deteriorate in prison without medication,” he added.

Muhammad Faizal said Ismet has had “limited” access to his family members and lawyers since his December detention, also confirming that the legal team had today initiated efforts to seek the revalidation and renewal of Ismet’s social visit pass.

Ismet’s lawyers said the arrest, prosecution and detention of their client is wrongful, and are now seeking to prevent him from being kept locked up in the Sungai Buloh prison for up to two months before his case even goes on trial.

In a January 5 letter to the courts sighted by Malay Mail Online, Ismet’s lawyers said court should grant an order to compel the prison to produce the 57-year-old man with heart ailments in court and release him, with bail already paid.

“Based on the urgent conditions stated above, we have been instructed to ensure Ismet is released on bail. This will allow Ismet to obtain treatment immediately so his health can be restored in order to not affect the image of the Sungai Buloh prison, the courts and any government agencies.

“For your information, Ismet’s guarantor has already completed bail payment of RM4,000.00 on 4 January 2017 and we apply to the Magistrate’s Court to issue OTP on Ismet on 5 or 6 January 2017,” the letter read, referring to the Order to Produce.

According to the letter, Ismet, who is a member of Turkey’s Universiti Mevlana’s board of directors, has no involvement in any political movements or any criminal records in any country.

Ismet’s lawyers said their client had entered the country legally and holds a valid social visit pass expiring only on November 17 this year to visit his son Suheyl, who is a doctorate holder and part of Time International School’s teaching staff.

Plainclothes officers tried to seize passport

In tracing the events that led to Ismet being locked up, the letter said a group of men in plainclothes had on December 13 visited Suheyl’s house here claiming to be officers from the Immigration Department.

“The men in plainclothes tried to take away Ismet’s passport,” the letter said, adding that Ismet had sought the aid of his son and other teachers from the international school, with Suheyl contacting the police to verify the men’s identities.

“Instead, when the police arrived, the men in plainclothes claimed that Ismet, Suheyl, and three other staff of Time International School had obstructed them from carrying out their public duties,” the letter said.

This resulted in the arrest of the five, who were later charged on December 23 under Section 353 of the Penal Code for the offence of using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his duty, punishable with a maximum two-year jail term or a fine or both.

All of them were later released on bail except for Ismet despite this being a bailable offence, as the prosecution was of the view that he cannot be bailed, his lawyers said.

They added that Ismet is currently being kept in conditions that may jeopardise his health. No trial date has been set and his case is only scheduled for mention on February 20.

“This means, if Ismet is not released on bail, he will continue to be in detention for two months until the upcoming mention date. That detention period will be even longer if OTP is not issued to release Ismet,” the lawyers said in the letter.

Medication denied

The letter cited two of the lawyers’ previous letters dated December 30 and January 4 to Sungai Buloh prison director Abd Kadir Rais, which had pointed out Ismet’s heart ailments and need to take medications from Turkey.

The lawyers said the prison’s medical officers had confiscated Ismet’s medicines and had disallowed medical checks on Ismet to allow him to either consume the seized medication from Turkey or replacement medication from Malaysia.

In the December 30, 2016 letter to the prison authorities, Ismet was described as having been diagnosed since March 29 with various medical conditions including hypertension and other forms of chronic ischemic heart disease. He has been prescribed medication to be taken thrice a day for a year.

The letter to the prison had also sought additional visits for Ismet’s wife Hatice Ozcelik and son Suheyl, citing Ismet’s health condition and his need for an interpreter as he can only speak in the Turkish language.

According to the letter, his son is fluent in Bahasa Malaysia and will be able to help his father overcome the language barrier and facilitate communication with prison authorities.

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