Autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticised Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Saturday for dismissing the country’s interior minister and intelligence chief on Friday due to their active role in the illegal abduction of six Turkish nationals.
According to a report by online news outlet Gerçek Gündem, Erdoğan also openly threatened him, saying, “You will pay the price for this.”
Speaking at the local congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Pendik district of İstanbul, Erdoğan said: “You saw it, our National Intelligence Organisation packed up six of these traitors in Kosovo and brought [them to Turkey]. Kosovo’s prime minister dismissed the interior minister and the person in charge of intelligence. Now I am asking: You, the prime minister of Kosovo, on whose instructions did you do such a thing? Since when do you protect those who attempted to carry out a coup in Turkey? You will pay the price for this. Politics cannot be done by remote control.”
Asking Haradinaj if he was aware that Turkey was the second country to recognize the independence of Kosovo, Erdoğan said: “You will pay for harboring those people who tried to perpetrate a coup against Turkey.” Erdoğan also said he was sure that Kosovars would hold Prime Minister Haradinaj accountable.
Kosovar Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rebuffed Turkish President Erdoğan, who had strongly criticized Haradinaj for dismissing the interior minister and the secret service chief over the abduction of six Turkish nationals to Turkey, saying that the internal affairs of Kosovo are run by Kosovars, not others, Koha and Vocal Europe reported on Monday.
Recalling Skanderbeg, an Albanian national hero who fought against the Ottoman Empire, Haradinaj on Monday said: “Those who judge from far away, don’t know Albanians very well. We never meddle in someone else’s work. Kosovo and I never meddle in Turkey’s work. But, no one can meddle in our work. We will do it our own way. Everyone should know that.”
In a speech on Monday Erdoğan continued attacking Haradinaj: “I would like to thank Kosovo President [Hashim Thaci]. I say: Shame on you, Kosovar prime minister.”
Meanwhile, Kosovo authorities have launched an investigation into the abduction and removal of the six Turkish nationals, which activists said represented a violation of human rights, Prime Minister Haradinaj said on Saturday.
The six Turkish nationals were illegally abducted by MİT agents in Kosovo on Thursday over their links to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement. On Friday Haradinaj sacked the Kosovo interior minister and secret service chief for failing to inform him about the arrests.
“Today we have decided to start an investigation of all [state] structures that were involved in arresting and deporting the six Turkish men,” Haradinaj said on Saturday after an emergency meeting of Kosovo’s security council.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Kosovo authorities over the arrests. “In addition to the questionable arrests, the men were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture,” the watchdog said in a statement.
The US ambassador to Pristina, Greg Delawie, said he was closely following the events unfolding in the small Balkan nation whose ties with Turkey date back to Ottoman times. “Transparency and commitment to due process and the rule of law are vital,” he tweeted.
There was no other comment from the US, which played the most prominent role in Kosovo becoming independent, or the European Union, to which the partially recognized state is an aspiring member. Kosovo has been under pressure from Turkey in recent weeks to take action against schools funded by the Gülen movement.
According to a report by Reuters, family members of the six had stayed at Pristina airport until the early hours of Saturday after rumors spread that they might still be in Kosovo. They left after the police said the six had been sent to Turkey on Thursday.
“My father was kidnapped,” said one family member, Mustafa Günakan, outside the airport. “We thought we were safe in Kosovo. We never thought it would end this way.”
Florian Bieber, a Balkans expert at the University of Graz, said the incident could be damaging for Kosovo, which is seeking to build closer ties with the European Union. “It certainly will hurt Kosovo, both for throwing doubt on the rule of law and political authority and for cooperation with a regime that is authoritarian and increasingly antagonistic with the EU,” Bieber told Reuters.
Kosovar news outlet Pristina Insight reported on Thursday that the Kosovo police had 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 Thursday. The Karabina family reportedly resisted the plainclothes police officers since they thought they could be agents of Turkey’s notorious 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.
Security camera footage released on Saturday shows five Turkish teachers and a doctor apparently going through security at the airport in Pristina after being abducted by Kosovar police and the Turkish intelligence service in Kosovo.
Videos shared on the Internet show that the Turkish nationals were taken through X-ray security accompanied by uniformed Kosovo police on Thursday morning. A private jet is also seen waiting on the apron.
Kosovar journalist Xhemajl Rexha tweeted on Friday that “#Kosovo Police has confirmed to a local news portal that the ‘6 #Turkish citizens were flown to #Turkey, Thursday 29th March, at 11:05 local time’.”
Rexha also tweeted late on Friday: “Tonight KTV reports that #Kosovo Infrastructure Ministry breached the rules by giving a permission with only 24 hours notice to the private jet that supposedly came here for the Turkish citizens. The minister comes from PM’s party. ‘They came for business’ an adviser told us.”
The arrests sparked a political crisis in Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief.
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.
Erdoğan regime has also requested the extradition of 115 Turkish nationals from Germany since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to a report by the Evrensel daily. In nearly half of the cases, suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities was given as the reason for the extradition request. Germany, according to the report, does not endorse extradition requests based on these grounds.
Turkey has frequently criticized European countries for not doing enough to support its efforts to combat what it considers terrorist groups. Recently Ankara has been upset by the failure of several European countries, including Germany, to arrest Salih Muslim, former chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers a terror organization
In a visit to Berlin earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu urged Germany to take more action against both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and members of the Gülen movement.
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.”