Four teachers expelled from Azerbaijan to Turkey over links to Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen were subjected to “extrajudicial rendition”, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday.
The Turkish citizens first moved to Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, where they worked for schools affiliated with Gülen’s followers. All four were detained and deported from the country in the aftermath of Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt. Upon their arrival in Turkey, they were arrested as alleged members of the Gülen Movement, which is widely accused of instigating the failed military takeover.
The expulsions took place despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issuing a protection letter on behalf of two of the teachers. None received asylum in Azerbaijan despite making formal requests.
Reviewing the case, the ECHR said all four teachers had been detained and deported in the absence of formal extradition proceedings, with Azerbaijan violating their rights to liberty and security under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Azerbaijan’s failure to examine whether the teachers were at risk of ill-treatment in Turkey also broke Article 3 of the convention prohibiting inhuman and degrading treatment, the court said.
The government crackdown that followed Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt has seen widespread allegations of human rights abuses including arbitrary detention and torture.
In February, the head of the Human Rights Center of the Ankara Bar Association resigned over a failure to publish a report into mistreatment of suspects detained over alleged membership of the Gülen Movement in the Turkish capital city’s security directorate.
Turkey already faces expulsion from the Council of Europe, the international body that oversees the ECHR, over its failure to implement the court’s ruling to release philanthropist and civil society activist Osman Kavala.
Azerbaijan is the only other country to have faced similar disciplinary measures. It has three months to appeal the latest ECHR decision.