6 Turks illegally sent home from Kosovo on orders from Erdoğan: report

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Six Turkish nationals who were abducted by Turkey's National Intelligence Organization in Kosovo on Thursday are seen allegedly in the Turkish Embassy in Pristina. (Photo: Vocal Europe)

The Kosovar intelligence service illegally deported six Turkish citizens on orders that were likely to have come directly from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan through Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, according to a report in the British newspaper The Times on Monday.

In a development that caused outrage around the world, the Kosovo police on March 29, 2018 arrested five educators working at schools linked to the faith-based Gülen movement in Kosovo as well as a doctor, after which Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) rendered them to Turkey.

An investigation by a Kosovar parliamentary committee has revealed the extent of Erdoğan’s pursuit of political opponents overseas and how Ankara used the security agency that acted without the knowledge of Ramush Haradinaj, the Kosovar prime minister.

Erdoğan accuses the Gülen movement of being behind a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Senegal and Mongolia are among 21 states that have answered Erdoğan’s calls to deport suspected Gülen followers to Turkey. In November, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, said Ankara had sent extradition requests for 482 people to 83 countries.

The deportations caused an outcry after Haradinaj tweeted that he had not been informed about the operation.

A report produced by the investigative committee of the Kosovar parliament, seen by The Times, concludes that the expulsions constituted at least 31 violations of the country’s constitution and laws, as well as breaking the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Kosovo is a signatory.

Xhelal Svecla, the committee’s chairman, told The Times the order came “from within the highest institutions.”

“The Kosovo Intelligence Agency [KIA] got the request from the Turkish side to hand over and deport six Turkish nationals residing legally in Kosovo,” he said. “There are suspicions that the list was bigger . . . According to our findings this goes even higher than our secret service.”

Thaci, a close ally of Erdoğan, is believed to have ordered the deportations. Last September, Erdoğan promised Thaci that he would help Kosovo, which is only recognized by 102 of the 193 UN member states, to join international institutions such as Interpol. Thaci, meanwhile, was one of the few heads of state to attend Erdoğan’s inauguration last July.

The case reveals Ankara’s expanding influence in Kosovo, once part of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish government has pumped money into mosque building and education in the country, but refuses to reveal exactly how much.

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