Aydın Tufan Tekin, a Turkish man held by a Lebanese clan for nearly a month, was reunited with his family early on Wednesday morning after he was released following negotiations between the clan and the army.
Tekin, kidnapped shortly after landing at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport on Aug. 15, arrived in Muğla's Dalaman Airport in southwestern Turkey on the private jet of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He was greeted at the airport by his parents and later headed to Marmaris, where his parents live. Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Turkey's ambassador to Beirut, Süleyman İnan Özyıldız, were also on the jet that flew him home.
Tekin was kidnapped by the Shiite Meqdad clan in return for the abduction of a family member, Hassan al-Meqdad, in Syria allegedly by the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). The clan said a Turk was targeted because Turkey is the main backer of the FSA.
His release was first announced by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Twitter. “Our citizen Aydın Tufan Tekin, who was kidnapped in Lebanon, has just been handed over to our embassy in Beirut,” Davutoğlu wrote on his Twitter account. “Lebanese Prime Minister Mr. Mikati called me about an hour ago to give me the good news,” he said. “We are very happy that our citizen has been freed.”
Tekin, speaking to the Anatolia news agency aboard Mikati's jet, said he had been kidnapped by masked men who forced him out of a cab he took right after landing at the airport in Beirut. He was blindfolded and taken to a house, where he spent the next 27 days. He said his captors told him that he was innocent but that they had no choice but to keep him as a hostage. Tekin also said the clan members had told him repeatedly that they would not kill him, a promise which he said was not always reassuring.
“They told me they would not kill me. But how much can you believe this? I kept wondering whether I would be killed,” he said.
He said his actions inside the house were not restrained, except that he was told to stay away from the windows and balcony. He spent his days watching television, reading newspapers and books and taking short walks inside the house as modest exercise.
The Meqdad clan agreed to release Tekin after two failed attempts to rescue Tekin since the weekend. Interior Minister Charbel was quoted as saying on Wednesday that he had refused to treat the Meqdad clan harshly over its kidnappings.
During an interview with the Al-Akhbar newspaper, Charbel voiced his hope that the relevant groups would “understand the [clan's] situation, [because] if any of [our relatives were] kidnapped, we might have felt the same way [the Meqdads] did,” according to website nowlebanon.com. Charbel added, however, that “this does not justify” the clan's lawless actions.
There have been contradictory statements over Tekin's fate since the first army raid in a Beirut neighborhood over the weekend, with reports saying that he had managed to escape during the first raid or that he was injured during the second.
Tekin said his captors had first told him on Tuesday that he would be freed in a couple of days and later stated that it would happen on Tuesday evening, not two days later, but he did not believe that he was to be freed until he saw the Turkish ambassador greeting him. Tekin was handed over to the Lebanese army before he was taken to the Turkish Embassy.
“We are very happy that we have finally received the good news that we have been waiting for anxiously for days,” Mustafa Koç, chairman of the Executive Board of the Koç Holding that owns the company employing Tekin, said in a statement, also praising efforts by the president, prime minister and the foreign minister to secure Tekin's release.
Another Turk kidnapped in Lebanon is yet to be freed. Reports in the Lebanese media this week quoted a group called "al-Mukhtar al-Thaqafi Brigades" as saying that it had freed the Turkish man, a truck driver identified as Abdülbasit Arslan, and 10 Syrians that it abducted last month.
There was no official confirmation of the reports.
The armed group kidnapped Arslan and the Syrians to seek the release of 11 Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped on May 22 in Syria shortly after crossing the border from Turkey.