Turkish teacher in Mongolia seeks asylum

Students hold up banners in support of their teacher, Akcay, at the airport in Ulaanbaatar in July

A Turkish teacher in Mongolia who was the victim of a suspected kidnapping attempt has asked a United Nations agency to arrange asylum, his lawyer says.

Veysel Akcay was seized last month from outside his home and bundled onto a small passenger jet, which Mongolian authorities grounded for eight hours until he was freed.

The 50-year-old is associated with US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a botched 2016 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a letter written by his lawyer and seen by AFP Tuesday, Akcay calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to intervene and let him leave Mongolia so he may seek asylum.

"Initial encouraging steps by the government of Mongolia have been subsequently followed by actions, which have clearly exposed Mr Akcay to the imminent risk of illegal transfer to Turkey," the lawyer wrote, adding that Akcay had twice in the past week been stopped from leaving the country.

Mongolian authorities said Friday that Akcay -- who has not been arrested for any crime -- has been barred from leaving the country but did not give a reason.

"We are unable to comment on the case as of this moment," said a spokesperson from the Ulaanbaatar prosecutor's office which requested the travel ban.

Colleagues say Akcay has been worried about his safety and did not show up for work on Tuesday. He heads a school in Mongolia allegedly linked to Gulen but teachers there denied the connection when asked by AFP.

The aborted coup in July 2016 was blamed by authorities on the Gulenist movement -- a group outlawed as "terrorist" by Turkey -- and prompted the biggest purge in the country's modern history, including the detention of some 80,000 people.

Gulen denies any links to the coup bid and insists he leads a moderate Islamic group.

Turkey's intelligence agency has carried out operations against suspected Gulen supporters in places such as Kosovo, Gabon and more recently, Ukraine.

Ankara last month rejected accusations that it was behind the foiled kidnapping attempt in Mongolia.