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Harms calls on EU to grant Turkey purge victims political asylum

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Rebecca Harms, spokeswoman for foreign affairs and expert on Turkey in the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, on Monday called on the European Union to react in unity and grant political asylum and protection to members of the faith-based Gülen movement targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government.

“The EU has to make sure that EU member states react united and political asylum and protection are granted,” Harms tweeted, directing her words to Federica Mogherini, vice president of the European Union Commission and high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, commissioner for EU neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.

Commenting on an opinion by Nate Schenkkan of Freedom House published in The Washington Post on Sunday on the global witch hunt and abductions carried out by the Turkish government against people linked to the Gülen movement, Harms said, “In Turkey we are witnessing a purge which is politically motivated and has […] a new threatening dimension. Unity in EU reaction matters.”

Schenkkan wrote in reference to the abduction last week of six Turkish nationals in Kosovo by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization: “The Pristina abductions are merely the latest episode of Turkey’s global purge, the government’s campaign to pursue its opponents all over the world, which began in 2014 but has accelerated dramatically since the coup attempt of July 2016. In this time, Turkey has repeatedly resorted to extralegal means to target its perceived opponents abroad. Media monitoring shows at least 15 countries on three continents where Turkey’s pressure led to arrests or deportations.”

In reference to countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia and Myanmar that have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals at the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations, Schenkkan said: “In five countries, Turkish citizens who had sought asylum were sent back to Turkey before their request was processed, a violation of international law. In at least three other countries, Turkey’s intelligence agency appears to have been involved in operations to extra-judicially render people from other countries to Turkey. Turkey’s media has also previously reported about the formation of a special MIT team to hunt Gulenists abroad.”

Referring to the Erdoğan government’s crackdown on and pursuit of dissidents and perceived opponents both domestically and globally, Schenkkan said, “The Pristina events also throw into sharp relief the implications of Turkey’s global purge for the dozens of countries all over the world where accused Turkish dissidents have gathered — a group that may number in the hundreds of thousands, given the guilt-by-association criteria that Ankara is applying domestically and abroad in its ‘anti-terrorism’ operations against academics, Kurdish activists, journalists and the Gulen movement.”

Recalling ‘Turkish intelligence activities in multiple countries, including other kidnapping plots,’ Schenkkan said, “Governments should become much more willing to offer Turkish citizens asylum and must look very skeptically upon Turkish government requests for arrest and extradition.”

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