The recent abduction of six Turkish nationals who were affiliated with the Gülen movement in Kosovo has confirmed the key role of Turkish embassies in the intelligence operations and illegal kidnappings of dissidents who maintain a critical stance against the Turkish regime of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to local sources in Kosovo, Turkey’s Pristina embassy was key to the logistics and planning and served as a detention center for the latest kidnapping operation of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) in Kosovo.
Despite statements made by Kosovar officials, the teachers were most likely kept for a time at the Turkish diplomatic chancery or at the residence of Turkish Ambassador Kıvılcım Kılıç. Diplomatic missions are inviolable, and security officials cannot enter without permission from of the head of mission.
Pictures of the teachers released by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) were taken in a room with Turkish flags, with claims that the teachers had already been brought to Turkey. However, no further photos were released by Erdoğan’s media, which is keen on bragging about the illegal operations of MİT against alleged members of the Gülen movement.
Turkish daily Cumhuriyet reported that the pictures were taken on the Turkish Embassy premises in Pristina by AA after their arrest. The pictures appear to have been taken by a professional, and the setup in the room was arranged to give the impression of a police station. As the pictures were first published by AA, its photojournalist in Pristina, Erkin Keci, who was most likely involved in the scandal, should also be questioned regarding the whereabouts of the teachers.
Officials point out that the flags in the room are mainly used in official Turkish missions and are not the kind commonly used at police stations in Turkey. Moreover, some pictures of Ambassador Kılıç, taken from the embassy’s Facebook page, support the claim.
It was claimed that the pictures of the abducted teachers were probably taken in the same room as those of Ambassador Kılıç. The floor, color of the walls, the type of flags and the flag standards look exactly the same. More strikingly, in all pictures a nail appears in the wall holding a painting of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.
The sources has also claimed that the illegal operation in Kosovo was conducted by Nurettin Canay Kavuncu, MİT’s bureau chief in Kosovo. He reportedly works as first secretary at the Turkish Embassy as a covert agent, together with his co-worker intelligence officer Atakan Ertaş.
Turkish spy agency MİT has established a foreign operations unit solely for the purpose of kidnappings and assassinations, according to revelations by pro-government journalist Cem Küçük.
It was also claimed that the logistics of such an illegal operation and the use of a diplomatic mission’s premises would have not been possible without the direct facilitation and permission of Turkish Ambassador in Pristina Kılıç, in contravention of the mandate of foreign diplomatic missions according to international law.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry on Saturday rejected and condemned what it called “malicious media manipulations” in Kosovo, specifically news reports on the fact that six Turkish men deported from the country were in the Turkish Embassy in Pristina.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy claimed in a written statement on Saturday that the reports that extradited 6 people were being kept at the embassy were “unfounded.”
Labelling the teachers and the civilians in Kosovo as “the terrorist organisation” Aksoy claimed that “It (the terrorist organisation) has once again shown its real face to the entire world with their actions against Turkey and its missions in Kosovo. The authorities of Kosovo have been reminded that the safety of Turkish nationals, missions, officials and companies is first and foremost Kosovo’s responsibility as a host nation and that they are expected to act in line with their international obligations. We also expect from our friends to have a careful and uncompromising approach against the manipulations of the members of this terrorist organization and the circles supporting them.”
The spokesperson of Turkish Foreign Ministry which has frequently made unfounded statements and often falsified by its counterparts on line with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has also claimed that “The provocative news in the media – which targeted our embassy, our ambassador and embassy staff by claiming that people extradited from Kosovo were in the embassy in Pristina – are unfounded. We strongly reject and condemn such malicious media manipulations.”
Kosovar news outlet Pristina Insight reported on Thursday that the Kosovo police detained three Turkish teachers in Gjakova and two in Prizren.
According to information obtained by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) from Kosovo, Yusuf Karabina, the vice director of the Gülistan Educational Institutions, his wife Yasemin Karabina and 15-year-old son were stopped by Kosovo police at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The Karabina family reportedly resisted the plainclothes police officers since they thought they could be agents of the notorious Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MİT). As a result the three members of the Karabina family were reportedly beaten by police during their detention.
It was also learned that Turkish cardiology professor Osman Karakaya, who moved to Kosovo to escape the persecution of the Erdoğan regime in Turkey, was also detained by Kosovo police on Thursday morning.
At the same time Yusuf Karabina was being taken to the police station, Kahraman Demirez, the principal of Mehmet Akif College in Gjakova, and teachers Cihan Özkan and Hasan Hüseyin Günakan were also detained by Kosovo police. Mustafa Erdem, the general director of the Gülistan Educational Institutions, was taken into custody when he visited the police station to obtain information about the situation of the detained Turkish teachers.
So far, a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan, Sudan and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”