Turkey has arrested a man accused of spying on behalf of regional rival the United Arab Emirates, Turkish state broadcaster TRT World reported on Tuesday.
Ahmad al-Astal, a 45-year-old Palestinian from Gaza, had Jordanian travel documents when he was taken into custody in Turkey.
Astal’s family in Gaza issued a statement on social media on September 25 saying he had been “kidnapped” four days earlier in Turkey.
His family said Astal was a journalist who had worked in the UAE for a decade before moving to Turkey where he worked at several media outlets, including state news agency Anadolu.
In a second statement on Tuesday, his family accused Turkey of handling the matter in an “opaque” manner, adding that any confessions Astal made under duress should not be used.
The family urged Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to intervene, saying Astal’s wife and two daughters are on their own in Turkey, and are suffering psychologically.
TRT World quoted Turkish sources saying that the UAE had allegedly ordered Astal to spy on the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey as well as “other activists” after he moved to the country in 2013.
The report said he also gathered information on Turkish domestic affairs.
Turkey’s relations with the UAE are uneasy, with the two countries on opposing sides in the Libyan conflict as well as longstanding tensions over Ankara’s ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood, vehemently opposed by Abu Dhabi.
When Gulf states including the UAE cut off Qatar in 2017, Turkey was quick to provide support to Doha, who remains Ankara’s closest Arab ally.
The UAE also hosts former Palestinian strongman Mohammad Dahlan, who is often accused by Turkish media of involvement in the 2016 failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of a role in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.
Turkey offered four million lira ($500,000) last year for information leading to the capture of Dahlan, a fierce rival of his former ally Abbas in the Palestinian Fatah party.