5 Turkish educators working at Gülen schools detained in Gabon, face deportation

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A woman protesting the arrest of six Turkish nationals in Kosovo on March 29.

Five educators working at schools opened in Gabon by Turkish entrepreneurs inspired by the views of Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen have been detained by the Gabon police and face deportation to Turkey, the tr724 news website reported on Tuesday.

The principal of the La Lumiere schools in Gabon Osman Özpınar, Pedagogy Director İbrahim Akbaş and teacher Adnan Demirönal were detained on March 15 on the grounds that they pose a threat to the national security of Gabon.

Two female teachers, whose names have not yet been released, were also detained on April 3.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, inspired by the views Gülen, of masterminding a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, a claim strongly denied by the movement.

Richard Sedillot, a renowned human rights activist and lawyer representing the La Lumiere schools, said the educators have been detained as a result of political pressure from Turkey. Sedillot said the Gabon police first accused the educators of document forgery but later said they were detained for posing a threat to the country’s national security.

The lawyer said the La Lumiere schools were bought by a French entrepreneur on June 13 and that the accusation of forgery is completely baseless.

The teachers’ passports have also been seized.

The Gabon Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is reportedly unaware of the detention of the Turkish educators and has taken no action to initiate their deportation to Turkey.

Three people in a Turkish diplomatic vehicle reportedly visited the police station where the educators are under detention, which raised concerns that the educators might be kidnapped and removed to Turkey, just like five educators and one doctor in Kosovo last week.

In a development that caused outrage around the world, the Kosovo police arrested five educators working at Gülen-linked schools in the country as well as a doctor last Thursday, and Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) rendered them to Turkey.

The incident sent shockwaves around the world and in Kosovo where the prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, who said he was unaware of the removal of the Turkish nationals to Turkey, fired the country’s interior minister and head of the intelligence service for failing to inform him about the arrests of the Turkish nationals.

Sedillot said the accusations directed at the Turkish educators in Gabon are baseless and that they are ready to fight them in court. The lawyer also noted that if the educators are sent to Turkey, they will not have the right to a fair trial and will be subjected to ill treatment.

In the meantime, Özpınar’s wife, Nesibe, was also detained by the police and released after spending two days in police custody.

The Maarif Foundation, which was established by the Turkish government in 2016 upon an order from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is reportedly seeking to assume control of the La Lumiere schools in Gabon.

The Maarif Foundation has signed memorandums of understanding with 26 countries in Africa to take control of schools belonging to movement followers.

Despite the Gülen movement strongly denying involvement in the failed coup, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement following the failed putsch.

Erdoğan expanded the witch-hunt against Gülen followers worldwide, asking several countries to close down Gülen-affiliated schools and institutions as well as to detain and extradite teachers, businessmen and their families who sympathize with the movement.

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