07/28/2016 06:32 EDT | Updated 07/28/2016 06:59 EDT

Canadian Government Yet To Make Contact With Citizens Detained In Turkey

OTTAWA — Government efforts to reach two Turkish Canadians arrested in connection with a failed coup in Turkey earlier this month have so far been stymied.

Davud Hanci and Ilhan Erdem were arrested and detained separately over the past week as Turkish authorities swept up thousands of people it accuses of having supported the July 15 coup attempt, which left more than 200 people dead.

turkey military coup

People gather to protest after a failed military coup attempt in Turkey, July 25. (Photo: Abdullah Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Citing privacy laws, Global Affairs Canada would only say that Canadian officials in Turkey are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the men's families. A government source, however, confirmed diplomats have not been able to reach Hanci or Erdem.

Both men are dual nationals, meaning they hold both Turkish and Canadian citizenship. Hanci lives in Calgary and is an imam for both the federal and Alberta correctional services. Erdem lived in Toronto and Ottawa, where he was also an imam, before moving back to Turkey after getting his Canadian citizenship.

Consular officials often have difficulty helping Canadians with dual citizenship who are arrested in their native country. This is particularly true of countries in Middle East countries such as Iran, which does not recognize dual citizenships.

"International law on this is non-existent."

Turkey does recognize dual nationalities. However, the U.S. State Department says the Turkish government does not permit Turks with two nationalities and who are arrested in Turkey to contact officials from the other country for help.

"International law on this is non-existent," Gar Pardy, who served for years as the federal government's head of consular affairs, said of cases involving dual nationals.

"All you can do is just keep pushing."

Erdem was arrested at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Monday while preparing to board a flight to Canada with his wife and two children, according to friend Nurcan Topcuoglu. Turkish media say Erdem is accused of leading the Hizmet movement in Canada.

The Hizmet movement, also known as the Gulen movement, is described as a global network based on the teachings of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric that the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the coup.

Gulen, a former ally turned critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has denied any involvement in the coup. The Turkish government has detained thousands of people it alleges are Gulen supporters.

turkey coup attempt

People wave Turkish flags as they gather in Taksim Square in Istanbul, protesting against the attempted coup, July 19. (Photo: Emrah Gurel/AP)

Topcuoglu, who was a neighbour of the Erdems before they returned to Turkey from Ottawa three years ago, rejected suggestions Erdem or his wife were involved in the coup, calling them "the most cleanest people on earth."

She said she had spoken to Erdem's wife, who was hoping to fly to Toronto on Friday.

Hanci was arrested over the weekend. Turkish media say he is accused of being a close associate to Gulen, and a ringleader in the coup. Friends and relatives in Calgary have denied the allegations, and say he, his wife and two sons were visiting Hanci's ailing father in Turkey.

Senior officials summoned Turkey's ambassador, Selcuk Unal, to Global Affairs Canada on Monday to explain why Hanci was arrested, and to raise concerns about his detention. They also relayed Canada's broader worries about the Turkish government's response to the failed coup.

With files from Daniela Germano in Toronto

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