Int’l human rights bodies slam abduction of 6 Turkish nationals in Kosovo

International human rights organisations have slammed the abduction of six Turkish nationals in Kosovo and their illegal removal to Turkey, characterizing the scandal as a callous disregard for basic principles of human rights.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the arrest of Turkish nationals in Kosovo showed a callous disregard for human rights and the rule of law. According to The New York Times and the Balkan Insight online newspaper on Friday, HRW said Kosovo had showen disregard for human rights with such a decision.

“In addition to the questionable arrests, the men were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture. The Kosovo President, Prime Minister and speaker of parliament, who claim no knowledge of the operation, should demand a thorough investigation and explain how this travesty took place.”

HRW’s statement came on the heels of statements by the Kosovar prime minister and president as well as autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who all confirmed that six people were removed to Turkey.

International human rights organisation Amnesty International’s (AI) local branch in the UK’s Kirklees district had also called on the Kosovar government to avoid the extradition of Turkish teachers abducted on Thursday.

“Turkey chair Taner Kılıç’s unlawful arrest in Turkey has showed us the arbitrariness in Turkey’s judiciary. Extradition of Turkish teachers to Turkey without due process is a severe mistake and should be avoided,” the local Amnesty office tweeted Friday night.

Earlier in the day, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) asked the Kosovo prime minister and president to free the group. “HRF is of the view that the non-refoulment principle under international human rights law, which has primacy over domestic law in cases involving basic rights and guarantees, must be carefully weighed and applied in any decision over whether or not to grant deportation or extradition requests by the government of Turkey.

“HRF’s investigation indicates that their arrest is due to their association with a Turkish educational institution in Kosovo, and is part of the larger domestic and international crackdown led by the Turkish government against any individuals or institutions associated or perceived to be associated with the religious philosophy of Hizmet. Currently, Turkey is cracking down on the Hizmet philosophy and any alleged followers of the so-called “Gülen movement,” which is what, in this case, has turned executives and teachers of the Mehmet Akif College in Kosovo into targets of the Turkish regime.”

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.”

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