EP members urge Ukrainian president to ensure safety of Turkish educators from Erdoğan regime

Following a request submitted by the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the extradition of five Turkish educators associated with the Gülen movement, five members of the European Parliament (EP) on Thursday urged Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to ensure the safety of these people in his country.

In a letter to President Poroshenko, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, EP members Renate Sommer, Monica Macoevi, Tunne Kelam, Georgios Epitideios and Brando Benifei urged the use all means at their disposal to ensure the safety of the five Turkish educators in Ukraine.

The full text of the letter is as follows: 

“We, the undersigned Members of the European Parliament, are writing to express deepest concern regarding the current situation of the Turkish community in Ukraine.

“We received letters from members of the Turkish community in Ukraine who are from the Gülen movement and dissidents of the Turkish leadership, sharing their concerns of facing abduction or deportation similar to the one in Moldova.

“After the abduction of 6 teachers from Kosovo last March, 7 educators who have been working and living in Moldova have been abducted and taken illegally to Turkey with the cooperation of Moldovan intelligence last week. This incident not only turned into a big internal political struggle but also generated an overwhelming impact for EU-Moldova relations and Moldovan leadership.

“We are hoping for a positive response to this letter soon in order to assure Turkish citizens of the strong dedication of Ukranian leadership to human rights and rule of law so that no such incidents as abductions or forced sudden deportations occur in Ukraine.

“We, therefore, urge you to use all the means at your disposal to ensure the safety of these people in your country.

“Looking forward to your response, we remain available for any further information.”

The Turkish teachers in Moldova — Hasan Karacaoğlu, Hüseyin Bayraktar, Rıza Doğan, Feridun Tüfekçi, Yasin Öz and Müjdat Çelebi — were detained and deported to Turkey on September 6, 2018. With the exception of Bayraktar, the teachers all applied for asylum in April 2018 and were expecting a response from Moldovan authorities this month.

In March 2018 the general director of the schools, Turgay Şen, was detained by Moldovan security forces upon the Turkish government’s request for extradition but was released without charges.

Another Turkish educator in Mongolia, Veysel Akçay, was detained in July of this year for extradition at the request of the Turkish government, but due to the intervention of Mongolian authorities and international pressure, he was released.

The Turkish government has launched both a domestic and a global crackdown against the Gülen movement, accusing it of orchestrating a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, although the movement strongly denied any involvement.

More than 100 Gülen-linked Turkish nationals were brought back to Turkey through intelligence service operations and with the cooperation of other countries, including Kosovo, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Gabon, and Myanmar.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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