ECtHR faults Azerbaijan for violating rights of 4 Turkish teachers illegally deported to Turkey

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Azerbaijan violated the rights of four Turkish teachers who had worked at private schools in the country linked to the Gülen movement, saying their detention and deportation to Turkey amounted to “extrajudicial rendition,” Turkish Minute reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.

The four teachers –- Taci Şentürk, İsa Özdemir, Ayhan Seferoğlu and Erdoğan Taylan –- were arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, upon their arrival in Turkey in 2017 and 2018.

The Strasbourg court on Thursday ordered Azerbaijan to pay each applicant 9,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages for violating Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights as well as Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment).

Bold Medya cited lawyer Rumeysa Bulduk, who had announced the development on social media.

“The Court held that the removal of the applicants had been a disguised extradition and their deprivation of liberty had been part of an extra-legal transfer in contravention of domestic and international law,” the ECtHR said in its judgment.

The court also said the teachers had been “denied protections against arbitrary refoulement,” leading to a violation of Article 3.

The ECtHR’s decision against Azerbaijan also sets a precedent for countries that allow the abduction and enforced disappearance of the Gülen movement members abroad, Bold Medya said.

The news website reported back in February that a court in Pristina started proceedings against three Kosovar officials who face five-year prison sentences for involvement in the illegal deportation of six Turkish teachers — Kahraman Demirez, Mustafa Erdem, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Yusuf Karabina, Osman Karakaya, and Cihan Özkan — to Turkey on March 29, 2018.

According to the report, Driton Gashi, former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, and Valon Krasniqi, director of the Department of Citizenship and Migration at the Interior Ministry, are accused of “abuse of official position or authority,” while Rrahman Sylejmani, head of the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners in the Kosovo Border Police, is accused of both “abuse of official position or authority” and “illegal deprivation of liberty.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, which conducts educational activities as well as charity work around the world, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

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