Turkey denies report of attempt to kidnap businessman in Switzerland

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey on Friday denied as “baseless allegations” a Swiss media report that Turkish diplomats tried to abduct a Swiss-Turkish businessman allegedly linked to the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, a case now under investigation by Zurich prosecutors.

Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger said one of the two diplomats linked to the alleged plot to snatch the Swiss-based businessman - who was active in the Gulenist movement that Ankara blames for the coup bid - remains in office in Bern. It said the second diplomat had since returned to Turkey.

“We utterly deny the baseless allegations contained in an article regarding the attempted abduction of a Swiss business person ... that also point to our embassy and our personnel as a target,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said.

Earlier on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu lashed out at a journalist during a news conference in Kazakhstan for asking a question related to the matter.

In the wake of the Tages-Anzeiger report, Swiss prosecutors confirmed a criminal investigation into the alleged plot had been under way since March 2017.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had asked the Swiss Foreign Ministry to clarify whether the suspects enjoyed diplomatic immunity now or at the time of the alleged crime. Waiving any immunity was necessary to carry out further investigations, it added.

The OAG said a year ago that it had begun a criminal inquiry into possible foreign spying on Switzerland’s Turkish community.

Swiss intelligence got wind of the 2016 kidnapping plot while it was being hatched, Tages-Anzeiger reported, adding that the intended victim remains under police protection.

The Turkish government blames U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the failed military coup. Gulen has denied any role in it.

Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Daren Butler and Mark Heinrich