Kosovo PM sacks security chief, interior minister over abduction of 6 Turkish citizens

Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief after the arrest and extradition to Turkey of six Turkish nationals.

Local media reported that Haradinaj signed an order for the immediate dismissal of Driton Gashi, the head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (AKI), and Minister for Internal Affairs Flamur Sefaj.

Donjeta Gashi, a Kosovo government spokesperson, confirmed Haradinaj’s decision to fire both Gashi and Sefaj. On Thursday, Haradinaj issued a statement declaring that he had not been informed of an action that was carried out by Kosovo police due to information from the AKI.

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.

Prime Minister Haradinaj had said he was not informed about the operation to deport the six, who were arrested in Kosovo on Thursday over their alleged links to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement. Kosovo has faced pressure from Turkey in past weeks to take action against schools affiliated with the movement.

“The entire operation — revoking their residence permits, detention, emergency deportation and the secret extradition to Turkey of the six Turkish citizens from Kosovo territory — was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission,” Haradinaj said in a statement.

Meanwhile, autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday expressed satisfaction with the operation to abduct the six Turkish nationals linked to the Gülen movement in Kosovo carried out by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and vowed to bring all people affiliated with the movement to Turkey in similar operations.

“Our National Intelligence Organization, in cooperation with Kosovo’s intelligence agency, got six high level members of FETÖ [a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to describe the Gülen movement] in the Balkans and handed them over to our police,” Erdoğan said during a meeting with ruling AKP provincial chairpersons in Ankara.

“Wherever they are, we will package them up and bring them [to Turkey], God willing,” he added.

According to the intelligence agency law, the dismissal of the director of the AKI must be signed by both the prime minister and the president. It was not immediately clear when replacements for Interior Minister Sefaj and secret service chief Gashi would be named.

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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