Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj has paid a visit to the wives of six Turkish teachers who on March 29 were said to have been abducted and flown to Turkey by Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) by collaborating with Kosovar groups in its intelligence units.
Haradinaj reportedly expressed his regrets over the incident, saying that his government would take all necessary steps to prevent such an incident from happening again.
On March 29, six Turkish nationals who work for a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement were abducted by agents of the Turkish intelligence service operating in Kosovo.
Hours later autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the victims had been brought to Turkey in a joint operation conducted by the Turkish and Kosovar intelligence services.
The abductions sparked a political crisis in Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief. Haradinaj also said on Thursday that “the entire operation — revoking their residence permits, illegal detention, emergency deportation and the secret extradition to Turkey of the six Turkish citizens from Kosovo territory — was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission.”
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci also commented on the developments: “Today we are disappointed because our relevant institutions, for reasons that remain to be clarified to the end, have failed to defend these principles related to the human rights of foreign nationals who live and work in our country. I am informed by the competent authorities after the event that six citizens were deported today to Turkey on the grounds that they did not have a residence permit in Kosovo.”
However, President Thaci changed his tone on Saturday and said he was informed by the intelligence service that “their arrest and deportation is related to their illegal and dangerous activity in Kosovo.” He also hinted that he was not pleased with the dismissal of the interior minister and secret service chief.
President Erdoğan criticised PM Haradinaj on Saturday for dismissing the country’s interior minister and intelligence chief on Friday over their active role in the illegal abduction of the six Turkish nationals. According to a report by online news outlet Gerçek Gündem, Erdoğan also openly threatened him, saying, “You will pay the price for this.”
Speaking at the local congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Pendik district of İstanbul, Erdoğan said: “You saw it, our National Intelligence Organisation packed up six of these traitors in Kosovo and brought [them to Turkey]. Kosovo’s prime minister dismissed the interior minister and the person in charge of intelligence. Now I am asking: You, the prime minister of Kosovo, on whose instructions did you do such a thing? Since when do you protect those who attempted to carry out a coup in Turkey? You will pay the price for this. Politics cannot be done by remote control.”
Asking Haradinaj if he was aware that Turkey was the second country to recognize the independence of Kosovo, Erdoğan said: “You will pay for harboring those people who tried to perpetrate a coup against Turkey.” Erdoğan also said he was sure that Kosovars would hold Prime Minister Haradinaj accountable.
Leutrim Syla, lawyer for the six Turkish nationals — Cihan Özkan, Kahraman Demirez, Hasan Hüseyin Günakan, Mustafa Erdem, Osman Karakaya and Yusuf Karabina — said on Friday that his clients would most likely face torture or ill treatment and harsh punishment if they are deported to Turkey.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, on Saturday tweeted that six Turkish nationals who were arrested by Kosovar police on Thursday and apparently spirited out of the country by Turkish intelligence later in the day would face the risk of torture and abuse in Turkey.
“Beyond the complete lack of due process, the six Turks who may have been sent from Kosovo to Turkey would face severe risk of torture and abuse. Whereabouts unclear,” Roth said on his Twitter account.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”