MEPs protest abduction of Turks in Kosovo in letter to Thaçi, Haradinaj

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Twenty-eight members of the European Parliament including Rebecca Harms, spokeswoman for foreign affairs and expert on Turkey in the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, have written a letter to Kosovar President Hashim Thaçi and Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj protesting the detention and deportation to Turkey of six Turkish citizens last month due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“Their residence permits have been cancelled without any legal procedure and they have been deported without any trial or any contact with their lawyers in violation of the principle of rule of law. We strongly criticise these grave events,” said the MEPs in their letter.

In a development that caused outrage around the world, the Kosovo police on March 29 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.

Immediately after the incident, Prime Minister Haradinaj fired the Kosovar interior minister and secret service chief for failing to inform him about the arrests.

Haradinaj, who described the arrests as a “mistake,” has ordered a separate investigation.

President Thaçi expressed disappointment that Kosovar institutions had failed to protect the human rights of foreign nationals working in the country but later 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.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed satisfaction with the abduction of the six Turkish nationals and vowed to bring all people affiliated with the movement to Turkey in similar operations.

In reference to Erdoğan’s threat to abduct more followers of the Gülen movement overseas, the MEPs said: “We were again alerted by Turkish President Erdogan’s announcement that more people will be extradited from Kosovo to Turkey. As Kosovo is part of the accession process it should align with European standards. The rule of law is a fundamental principle of the European Union. We are concerned that it has been completely forgotten that countries are morally and legally bound to respect international conventions and protocols, which were laid down to protect basic human dignity and have been upheld over the centuries by our civilization. We should strive for an inclusive society rather than one that extradites people on the basis of alleged political affiliations.”

Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pursued a crackdown on the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

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

Urging Kosovo to respect all judicial procedures in line with European principles and standards, the MEPs said: “All actions taken by local Kosovar authorities must be in full respect of the rule of law and promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Arbitrary procedures concerning arrest, detention or extradition are in violation of these principles.“

The MEPs said they trust in Kosovo’s authorities to maintain a strong stance on human rights and the rule of law and “that it will withstand the pressure Turkey is systematically exerting.”

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