Turkey envoy asked to report home

Ambassador leaves Dhaka for 'consultation' in the aftermath of Nizami's execution
Devrim Öztürk

Turkey yesterday asked its ambassador to Bangladesh to report home for consultations in the aftermath of the execution of Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, the Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency said.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan had taken no time to condemn Nizami execution early Wednesday.

He even believes Nizami, who was convicted of crimes committed against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, had “no earthly sins”.

The Anatolia news agency quoting a diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wrote that Ambassador Devrim Ozturk was expected to arrive in the capital Ankara yesterday.

Later, diplomatic sources in Bangladesh told The Daily Star that the ambassador left Dhaka on a flight of Turkish Airlines for Ankara in the evening.

The Turkish move came a day after Pakistan's national parliament passed a resolution of condemnation over the same issue.

It also coincided with Pakistan's summoning of Bangladesh high commissioner in Islamabad yesterday for lodging its protest against the hanging of Nizami.

Though news agencies Reuters and AFP reported that Turkey has withdrawn or recalled its ambassador from Bangladesh, the state minister for foreign affairs said that the envoy informed the foreign ministry before leaving for Ankara and this is usual.

Recalling the ambassador is a formal way of protest in diplomacy. It is more serious than summoning the ambassador of a country and less serious than suspending diplomatic relations, according to some former diplomats.

With modern means of communication available, they said, it has few practical consequences or utility, but it is still indicative of a serious strain on bilateral relations.

"When a country is extremely displeased at a certain policy or action of another country, the former withdraws its ambassador from the latter to express its displeasure," said a former diplomat wishing anonymity.

Before taking such action, a country usually informs the host country about it. In retaliation, the host country may recall its ambassador from the other one, he added.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, however, said the report that the “envoy has been withdrawn" is not true and Turkey has not informed Bangladesh about anything of this sort.

“We have no information, officially or unofficially, on this matter. Our embassy in Ankara has also not received anything from the Turkish government,” he told The Daily Star.

However, he added, the Turkish ambassador handed a letter to the foreign ministry, stating that he was going outside Bangladesh for a few days and informed the ministry who would be in charge in his absence.

“This is a usual practice by diplomats. They inform the host country whenever they go out of the country for vacation or any other reasons,” he added.

Asked if the decision of the Turkish government will have any impact on Dhaka-Ankara relations, Shahriar said, “I don't think so. I don't think there will be any impact on the existing excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.”


Immediately after Nizami's hanging in the early hours of Wednesday, Erdogan voiced his concern while protests were staged in the Turkish capital Ankara and Istanbul against the execution.

“I condemn the mentality that sentences to death a mujahid, who is over the age of 70 and who we believe has no earthly sin," said Erdogan after the execution of Nizami.

"I think that such proliferation of hatred there, and the ordering of such death sentences despite our repeated initiatives, is neither fair governance nor a democratic mentality.”

Erdogan's description of Nizami is not backed by historical facts.

Nizami was the chief of Al Badr, a brutal paramilitary force that assisted Pakistan army and, in the process, participated in genocide during the nine-month war in 1971.

He was sentenced to death by Bangladesh court for the killings of intellectuals, murder of 450 civilians and rape in Bausgari and Demra, Killings of 52 people in Dhulauri, killings of 10 people and the rape of three women in Karamja in Pabna.

He was also sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of involvement in the killing of Karim Uddin and two others, and Sohrab Ali in Pabna, and torture and killing at the Mohammadpur Physical Training Centre in Dhaka.


Since the beginning of the trials of top Jamaat leaders, including Ghulam Azam, Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mojaheed and Abdul Quader Mollah, Turkey has been making various efforts to save them.

"We have in the last three years repeatedly called upon the leaders of Bangladesh at the highest level to suspend the execution of death sentences," Turkish foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

"We strongly condemn the execution, since we do not believe that Nizami deserved such a punishment."

It said Turkey believes that the injuries of the past cannot be healed through such methods and "on the contrary, they will incite hatred and enmity among our Bangladeshi brothers”.

Erdogan's predecessor Abdullah Gul in December 2012 also sent a letter to then Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman, requesting him not to pursue the trial of war criminals. Gul requested clemency for former Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam and the other accused.

His letter intensified tensions between the two countries as Ankara summoned Bangladesh ambassador to Turkey a day after Dhaka summoned Turkish ambassador in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh foreign ministry stated that the letter from Turkish president is "not acceptable" and it is a "clear interference" in the internal affairs of Bangladesh.

Besides, a visit of a 14-member delegation of Turkish NGO Cansuyu Aid and Solidarity Association from December 20 to 24 hiding their identity and misusing “on arrival visa” facilities and its inappropriate activities also made Dhaka unhappy.

Some foreign ministry officials then said the government could have sent back the NGO delegation but it refrained from doing so considering the excellent bilateral ties with Turkey.

They also said the Turkish envoy had violated certain diplomatic norms and he could be expelled as he did not give prior information to the government about arrival of the delegation and subsequently he concealed information about its programmes and schedules.

The ambassador did not inform the foreign ministry about the delegation's meeting with leaders of the BNP and Jamaat and others as well as its visit to the international crimes tribunal set up to try those accused of crimes against humanity.

The foreign ministry summoned the Turkish envoy and asked him to explain the NGO team's visit without informing the government.


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