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URGENT: 6 Turkish nationals taken to Pristina Airport for deportation

Six Turkish nationals who said to be deported to Turkey from Kosovo are at Pristina airport — diplomatic source.

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Six Turkish nationals who were abducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization in Kosovo were taken to Pristina Airport on Friday, news websites tr724 and Vocal Europe reported.

“Six Turkish nationals who said to be deported to Turkey from #Kosovo are at Pristina airport — diplomatic source,” Vocal Europe tweeted.

“Six Turkish nationals have been kept at Turkish mission in Pristina — reveals a diplomatic source from Kosovo,” Vocal Europe said, sharing a photo of the six Turks allegedly taken to the Turkish Embassy in Pristina.

Tr724 also posted news claiming that six Turkish nationals have been taken to Pristina Airport, adding that some of them were seen at the airport.

The news website also claimed that a Turkish Airlines plane was waiting in the apron to leave for Turkey.

Leutrim Syla, a lawyer representing the six Turkish citizens, tweeted on Friday: “From a trustworthy source from ‘Gulistan’ Education Institution we are informed that the 6 Turkish citizens have been seen in the “Old Building” at the ‘Cargo’ of the Prishtina Airport at 19.00. We urgently ask from Kosovo authorities to take action.”

Both Turkish and Kosovar authorities confirmed today that six Turkish nationals have been transferred to Turkey.

On Thursday morning Kosovo police arrested six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working at a group of schools affiliated with the faith–based Gülen movement.

The arrest created a political crisis in Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief.

Haradinaj said on Thursday: “The entire operation — revoking their residence permits, 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.”

“Our National Intelligence Organization, in cooperation with Kosovo’s intelligence agency, got six high level members of FETÖ [a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to describe the Gülen movement] in the Balkans and handed them over to our police,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a meeting with AKP provincial chairpersons in Ankara.

“Wherever they are, we will package them up and bring them [to Turkey], God willing,” he added.

Syla said late on Thursday that his clients were still in Kosovo, calling on Kosovar leaders to stop their deportation to Turkey.

“Regardless of Turkish media coverage, we have received credible information that our clients Orhan Özkan and 5 other Turkish citizens are being kept Kosovo and have not been transferred to Turkey yet,” Syla said in a written statement on Twitter.

“We look forward political leadership of Kosovo to step up and show leadership by stopping this deportation if our clients are still in Kosovo as mentioned. We are very concerned and worried about the safety of our clients,” he added.

Syla underlined that his clients, Cihan Ozkan, Kahraman Demirez, Hasan Huseyin Gunakan, Mustafa Erdem, Osman Karakaya and Yusuf Karabina, will most likely face torture or ill treatment and harsh punishment if they are deported to Turkey.

Months ago, Kosovo police arrested Uğur Toksoy, an educator with alleged links to the Gülen movement. Kosovo has not extradited Toksoy to Turkey, but the ordeal still sent shock waves throughout Kosovo’s Turkish community, some of whom told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) that they fled to Kosovo hoping to escape Turkey’s crackdown on the press and individuals and groups with ties to the movement.

The Gülistan Educational Institutions operate four Mehmet Akif elementary and high schools in Kosovo. The schools were opened by Turkish entrepreneurs inspired by the views of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Turkish President Erdoğan and his ruling 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 the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

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

A total of 62,895 people were detained in 2017 as part of investigations into the movement, according to Interior Ministry reports.

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