ISSN 2330-717X

Kosovo ‘Broke Law’ When Deporting Turkish ‘Gulenists’


By Blerta Begisholli

A Kosovo parliamentary commission investigating the deportation of six Turkish citizens alleged to be members of what Ankara claims is a terror group led by cleric Fethullah Gulen has found 31 breaches of laws and procedures.

The parliamentary commission probing the highly controversial deportation of the six alleged Gulenists to Turkey in March last year said on Tuesday that it is sending a file to the prosecutor’s office in Pristina detailing 31 breaches of laws and procedures.

“Having the information that some national institutions have committed a criminal offence, we will send it to the prosecution,” Driton Selmanaj, the joint head of the commission, told a press conference.

The commission found that most of the breaches were committed by the Kosovo Intelligence Agency and the Kosovo Police, but also the Department of Civil Aviation, said Xhelal Svecla, the other joint head of the commission.

Two people also gave false information to the commission and should face charges, the commission chiefs said.

The six Turks deported last March were wanted by Ankara over their alleged links to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, which Turkey calls the ‘Fethullahist Terror Organisation’, or FETO, and blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Turkey had said its secret service conducted the operation in cooperation with Kosovo’s security and intelligence institutions.

But after Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj complained that the Turks had been deported without his knowledge, he axed the director of the Intelligence Agency, Driton Gashi, and the Interior Minister, Flamur Sefaj.

On Tuesday, Selmanaj complained that the parliamentary commission’s work had been obstructed, saying that some official documents that it requested were not provided, and criticised President Hashim Thaci for his alleged unwillingness to report to the parliamentary body.

“We had obstruction from the governing parties to doing our job properly. We have requested an extraordinary session of parliament, but the [governing] Democratic Party of Kosovo has boycotted the initiative,” Selmanaj said.

Selmanaj is from the opposition Democratic League of Kosovo party, while the commission’s other joint head, Svecla, is from the opposition Vetevendosje.

Turkey has been putting pressure on its allies and on countries in the Balkans to close down any institutions or NGOs linked to exiled cleric Gulen, and to extradite Gulenist suspects.

But after the Turkish operation and Haradinaj’s sackings, it triggered a war of words between politicians from the two countries.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Kosovo Prime Minister of wanting to protect “terrorists”.

But Haradinaj told Voice of America that he could not comprehend Erdogan’s reactions.

“We do not interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs, these are our internal affairs and no one will make decisions on Kosovo’s internal affairs,” Haradinaj said.

On March 4, Fethullah Gulen also shared harsh criticism of the deportations, likening them to a hijacking.

The Gulistan Educational Institutions, which operate four Mehmet Akif elementary and high schools in Kosovo, confirmed that among those arrested were its general director Mustafa Erden, deputy director Yusuf Karabina, a school principal in Gjakova/Djakovica, Kamaran Demirez, plus two teachers, Cihan Oskan and Hasan Gunakan.

In addition to the names issued by the school, Turkish state-owned news agency Anadolu said another man named Osman Karakaya was also brought to Turkey from Kosovo.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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