Turkish businessman Ali Sipahi, who has been living in Brazil since 2007, was arrested in Sao Paulo on an extradition request from Ankara, which accuses him of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, a group that is blamed for a 2016 coup attempt.
According to a Folha de S.Paulo report published on Thursday, Sipahi was put in jail on April 6. If he is extradited to Turkey, he faces a sentence of between seven-and-a-half and 15 years in prison.
Although the movement denies any involvement in the abortive putsch, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government launched a global crackdown targeting followers of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has been living in the US since 1999.
Sipahi, 31, a restraurant owner in Sao Paulo, has been a Brazilian national since 2016, but Brazilian law allows extradition if a crime was committed prior to naturalization.
Turkey accuses Sipahi of depositing money in the Gülen-linked and now-closed Bank Asya in 2013 and 2014.
His arrest has aroused fear among Turkish immigrants, who see the request for extradition as part of a campaign of persecution conducted by Erdoğan against opponents, the daily reported.
Some have decided to leave Brazil for fear of becoming the next target, it added. There are some 250 Gülen followers in the country.
Sipahi’s lawyer requested his release because the suspect does not present a flight risk due to his business ties.