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Former Kosovo intel chief sentenced to prison due to role in illegal deportation of Gülenists

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A Kosovo court has handed down a prison sentence of four years, eight months to the country’s former intelligence chief due to his role in the illegal deportation of six Turkish citizens from the country in 2018, the Kosova Press reported.

The decision of the Basic Court in Pristina concerns Driton Gashi, former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency (KIA).

Gashi has been convicted of “abuse of official position or authority.” The court has also banned him from assuming any public position after serving his sentence.

Former head of the Kosovo Intelligence Agency Driton Gashi

Gashi will be able to appeal the court’s decision at the Court of Appeals of Kosovo.

Among those who were deported to Turkey in March 2018 were five teachers — Kahraman Demirez, Mustafa Erdem, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Yusuf Karabina and Cihan Özkan — and a cardiology professor, Osman Karakaya. They all had residence and work permits in the country. The teachers were working for a Gülen-linked school in Kosovo.

They six men were arrested at Turkey’s request over alleged links to Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, and forcibly transported to Turkey.

The two countries’ intelligence operatives and the Turkish Embassy in Pristina were reportedly involved in the operation, which prompted reactions from the European Union and rights groups.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016 and labels it as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch or terrorist activity.

Gashi had been dismissed from his job following the illegal deportation of the Turkish nationals. The then-prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, claimed the incident had happened without his knowledge.

In addition to Gashi, two other individuals — Valon Krasniqi, former director of the Department of Citizenship and Migration at the Interior Ministry, and Rrahman Sylejmani, former head of the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners in the Kosovo Border Police, who stood trial in the same case — have been acquitted of the charges of “abuse of official position or authority” and “illegal deprivation of liberty” because the charges against them could not be proved.

The six men, who were charged with “espionage” and “serving as executives of an armed terrorist organization” in Turkey, were handed down sentences of various lengths and are still in prison.

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

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