A Pakistani Traveler Jailed in Turkey for a crime he didn’t commit, for a crime that happened when he wasn’t even there.
This happened Ahmad Jamal on his trip to Turkey! He had to spend the night in jail in a case of mistaken identity. This is his story in his own words:
“I was returning to Pakistan after visiting London. The smiling immigration officer politely took my passport and E-Visa. She quickly checked the visa and then stamped my passport.
As soon as she stamped my passport, she got alerted to something on her computer screen. Then an officer told me to follow him and we walked quite a bit to get to an office which was located around the departures immigration control. They told me that there are no issues with immigration, however, I have a problem with police in the Turkish city of Alanya. I told them that I have never been to Alanya or any other surrounding region. I was also not here in 2016. They said that they cannot do anything and this will be handled by the police.
I hadn’t done anything so wasn’t worried. I expected some delay, but thought would be done with this soon. They escorted me to the baggage claim area and we collected the baggage. Then as soon as we exited the arrival’s area, a white shuttle was waiting for me. In less than five minutes’ drive I arrived at the police station of the Istanbul Airport.
My expectation was there would be biometrics or other checks, and I would be free to go, however, as soon as I entered the premises I was taken to a detention room. The detention room was a small room with two hard benches, a large water bottle and a few used disposable glasses. To my shock, I was informed that I have to spend the night here, and then I will be taken to the court in day time.
I did not waste anytime and explained the situation to a few friends by trying my luck witu the police wifi which had a weak password, 12345678, including a diplomat at the Pakistan’s Embassy in Ankara, and a few other friends who are working in Pakistan’s Foreign Office in Islamabad. Within a few minutes, my messages were read by some of the friends and they assured me that they will reach out to the concerned authorities. Sadly no help came.
Around 5:00 in the morning, the police informed us that we will all be taken to the hospital for a medical check up. It felt like pure torture, I was tired, restless, stressed, and the procedures did not allow to give me any rest time. We were taken to a hospital in a shuttle which was at least twenty five minutes drive away. After that the gate of the prison style cell was opened and I was asked to go inside. That was a heavy moment as I never thought I would ever go behind the bars.
I was taken to court. The other guys who were being taken to court mostly had interpol issues and some of them arrived into turkey after spending convictions overseas. As they were driving us to the court, I was asked if I would need a translator and choice of language. So I requested an english translator.
A translator soon arrived and introduced himself to me. He was not surprised by what I told him. He said it is a common occurrence as Turkish computer systems only use name, and no other detail like date of birth etc. and he personally know that many family holidays and honeymoons have been ruined as a result of this system.
A video conference hearing was arranged from the court in Alanya as my issue was raised through the authorities in Alanya. The issue of the case was that someone used a sim card which was issued in the name of some “Ahmed Jamal” and that was the only identification detail which they had. That sim card was used to commit a fraud of around 60 USD. Only 60 USD. There was no other match or evidence that matched my identity. The court said that I have to provide my hand writing and then I am free to go. I was finally glad to hear about the freedom.
I had to provide my hand writing on four A4 pages, and I had to complete the pages entirely with my hand writing. The first page had to be done with right hand whilst sitting. The second page by right hand whilst standing. The Third and Fourth with left hand, each by sitting and standing. At this point the translator told me that the court staff/ police need “lunch money”. I would do anything at this point to get freedom as I was mentally and physically drained and was almost out of senses. He said 50 USD is good, I complied. I was then given two pages typed in Turkish language and was told that I am free to go and I have no problems with the law.
I took a taxi and went to a hotel where I crashed for a night after wrongful and unreasonable detention of over 15 hours.
My Next concern was my exit from Turkey. I was worried if the immigration stops me once again and claim that my record is still appearing or something. I was once again assured by the diplomatic authorities that they will provide support if anything goes wrong, and they did follow up the issue with the Turkish authorities too. However, the next day I did not face any issue at immigration and was stamped out in a second.
There are a number of questions in my mind with respect to what had happened with me. The first is that if I was a national of another country but other circumstances would have been the same, would they have treated me the same way? Secondly, what should be the extent of consular support in situations like these, and is there anything which our embassies or authorities can do to avoid such situations in future? Thirdly, when travelers plan their destination, they take into account a number of factors, should not they keep the justice system and fair governmental procedures a key factor when deciding the destination? I had to face this humiliation for someone committing a fraud of only 60 USD.
I am still trying to come out of the shock of this incident. I am a passionate traveler and I have traveled well over hundred times to other countries, and I recently reached the milestone of traveling to 50 different countries. This incident will not deter my love and passion for traveling and I will keep at it.”