Six rounded up over al­leged links to Gulen move­ment


Kosovo Prime Min­is­ter Ra­mush Harad­i­naj dis­missed the coun­try’s in­te­rior min­is­ter and the se­cret ser­vice chief on Fri­day be­cause he was not told six Turk­ish na­tion­als would be de­ported to Turkey.

The six were ar­rested in Kosovo on Thurs­day over al­leged links to schools fi­nanced by the Gulen move­ment, which Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup.

“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,” Harad­i­naj said in a state­ment.

Ankara said the six ar­rested were re­cruiters for a net­work run by the US-based cleric Fethul­lah Gulen and had helped peo­ple ac­cused of con­nec­tions to the net­work to leave Turkey. Ankara blames Gulen and his move­ment for a failed coup at­tempt in 2016, which Gulen de­nies.

Turkey has cracked down on the move­ment since the abortive coup, jail­ing thou­sands and sack­ing or sus­pend­ing from their jobs thou­sands more. The EU says the crack­down vi­o­lated hu­man rights, a po­si­tion that com­pli­cates Kosovo’s re­la­tions with Turkey.

It has been un­der pres­sure from Turkey in re­cent weeks to take ac­tion against schools funded by the Gulen move­ment. But it must bal­ance its his­tor­i­cal ties to Turkey, one of Kosovo’s big­gest in­vestors, against its am­bi­tions to join the EU.

The ar­rests of the Turks showed “hu­man rights can be vi­o­lated” in Kosovo, said Agron Ba­jrami, ed­i­tor in chief of Kosovo’s big­gest news­pa­per, Koha Di­tore.

“It is ab­surd and imag­in­able that none of the (po­lit­i­cal) lead­ers had prior knowl­edge as they are say­ing,” Ba­jrami said.

“This story does not end with these two dis­missals. The only way to apol­o­gize to cit­i­zens is that all Kosovo lead­ers re­sign.”

Kosovo had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ar­rest the six Turks, who had ar­rest war­rants and ex­tra­di­tion re­quests against them, Turk­ish Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ab­dul­hamit Gul said. The de­ci­sion to dis­miss the in­te­rior min­istry and in­tel­li­gence chief was a do­mes­tic is­sue in Kosovo, Gul said.

“Cracks within Kosovo in­sti­tu­tions led to what hap­pened,” said Kadri Ve­seli, the speaker of the Kosovo Par­lia­ment.

“I want to en­sure all those for­eign­ers who are in Kosovo ... that an in­ci­dent such as this one will not hap­pen in the fu­ture. It was a mis­take.”

But in a speech dur­ing a meet­ing of his AK party in Ankara on Fri­day, Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, said the Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence agency MIT had brought the six Turks back “in co­or­di­na­tion with Kosovo in­tel­li­gence.”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear when re­place­ments would be named for In­te­rior Min­is­ter Fla­mur Se­faj and se­cret ser­vice chief Dri­ton Gashi.

Stu­dents hold pictures of their Turk­ish teach­ers as they demon­strate against their ar­rest in Pristina, Kosovo. (AFP)

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