Kosovo parliamentary committee to probe abduction of six Turkish nationals

Kosovo parliament voted on Wednesday to set up a committee to investigate how six Turkish citizens were abducted and illegaly deported to Turkey in a move that activists say violated human rights.

The six Turkish nationals, educators Cihan Özkan, Kahraman Demirez, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Mustafa Erdem and Yusuf Karabina who were working for a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement in Kosovo, along with Dr. Osman Karakaya,  were arrested in Kosovo last week at Turkish government’s request.

The Parliament of Kosovo held an extraordinary session at the request of 40 deputies who signed a motion asking a parliamentary debate on the illegal arrest and deportation of the six Turkish nationals last week. The Parliament’s Presidency held a meeting on Wednesday morning and set the extraordinary session today at 14:00. Deputy Speaker Xhavit Haliti said that the urgent session was called as foreseen by the Constitution after 40 deputies collected the necessary signatures to ask for an urgent meeting.

Collecting of signatures was initiated by the opposition party of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which was also asking snap elections, stating that ruling coalition has lost majority in Parliament.

The arrest and deportation of six Turkish nationals was criticised by Kosovo leaders, including Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj who said that he was not informed about the operation. Haradinaj has sacked minister of Interior and chief of Kosovo Intelligence Agency (KIA) after the operation.

Also opposition parties have criticised the security institutions for extraditing the Turkish men to Turkey by disregarding standard procedures.

Avdullah Hoti, head of the deputies from the LDK that initiated the emergency session in the 120-seat parliament, said he was “shocked” by the arrests of the six – teachers and managers at schools. “Instead of being interviewed by authorities in Pristina, they were urgently deported to Turkey,” Hoti said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised the Kosovo authorities over the arrests saying the six men “were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture”.

Speaking in a live television interview on Wednesday, Haradinaj said he had spoken to Washington and the European Union, its two main economic and political supporters, about the incident. “I have assured the EU and Washington that this was a mistake and an accident and I have asked them for their understanding and help to fix this,” Haradinaj told private Dukagjini television.

Driton Gashi

According to a report by Express, KIA Director Driton Gashi has offered his resignation, said Minister of Justice, Abelard Tahiri, during an interview with the TV program Pressing aired in T7.

Tahiri said that Gashi has offered his resignation after the Prime Minister Haradinaj asked him to leave the post for not informing him on the secret deportation of the six Turkish nationals. “Mr. Gashi has offered his resignation in order to pave the way for further procedures,” Tahiri said.

“Gashi said that after what happened he does not want to become and obstacle on future decisions,” Tahiri said. PM Haradinaj and other state leaders said that those responsible for the deportation of the Turkish nationals will be held responsible.

After the abduction and illegal deportation scandal, PM Haradinaj has dismissed Minister of Interior and chief of intelligence claiming that he was not informed of the operation. Minister of Interior Flamur Sefaj has offered his resignation on Tuesday.

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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