The Kosovo authorities, despite being informed in advance, mistakenly deported a man called Hasan Hysein Gunakan to Turkey last year instead of Hasan Hysein Demir, says a report commissioned from an independent expert by the Kosovo parliament’s Security Committee, which has been obtained by BIRN.
The report is based on the statements of officials involved in the controversial operation to deport six Turkish nationals wanted for alleged links to what Ankara claims is a ‘terrorist movement’ led by the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
It reveals how the Kosovo authorities sent the wrong man to Turkey, despite having “full knowledge” of the mistake.
Hasan Huseyin Gunakan’s photograph was the only ‘document’ through which Kosovo Police established his identity before taking him to Pristina airport for deportation on March 29, 2018, mistaking him for the other Turkish national, Hasan Hysein Demir.
The report shows that Gunakan was one of three Turkish professors arrested in Gjakova/Djakovica in March 2018 upon Ankara’s request. Only one of them had identification documents.
Based on the testimony of the director of the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners of the Border Police, Rrahman Sylejmani, which is published in the report, problems arose in identifying Gunkan due to the fact that in the material that the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, AKI gave to the police, there were two photographs of two people with similar names.
The first person to ask for clarification about this was the head of the Sector for Control of Foreigners in the Directorate of Migration and Foreigners of the Border Police, Hamit Rukiqi.
But Rukiqi was ordered by an AKI officer to detain “whoever meets the photo identification”, the report says.
Sylejmani told the parliamentary committee investigating the deportations that at the airport, Gunakan attempted to tell the officials involved he was not the person they wanted.
“I said is this your photo, he said yes. The photo is mine but these aren’t my personal data,” Sylejmani is quoted as saying in the report.
Sylejmani said that he then consulted with two AKI officers.
After speaking to a superior, one AKI agent responded that “a technical error was made with the name, but we will correct it in the meantime”, Sylejmani is quoted as saying in the report.
“Mr. Sylejmani’s account, if it turns out to be true, is an extraordinarily important piece of evidence, because it would show that he, together with at least one of the AKI officers, with full knowledge, brought about the expulsion of an individual for whom there had not been any lawful decision for revoking his residence permit, nor any lawful order for his forced removal,” says the report.
The six Turkish citizens, who all had permits to be in Kosovo, were wanted by Ankara over their alleged links what Turkey calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation, or FETO, which it blames it for the failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
Exiled cleric Gulen, based in Pennsylvania in the US, insists he had nothing to do with the coup attempt.
Senior Kosovo officials have long claimed the deportations caught them by surprise, claiming they were not informed about them.
On Monday, the US embassy in Pristina called on Kosovo institutions to ensure “full accountability for anyone violating the law”.
“The issue is not the alleged guilt or innocence of the individuals, but rather the apparent circumventing of Kosovo’s legal processes by Kosovo politicians,” the US embassy said in a statement.
The US embassy’s concerns were echoed by the British and German embassies in Pristina.
After the US, British and German embassies expressed their concerns, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said on Tuesday that security institutions must not violate people’s human rights.
“With respect to the competencies outlined in the constitution of the Republic of Kosovo and respecting the legislation of the Republic of Kosovo, I have deemed it of vital importance to fully resolve the forceful deportation of the Turkish nationals from Kosovo,” Haradinaj wrote on Facebook.
“In addressing this situation, I launched immediate institutional measures by dismissing the director of the AKI and the Minister of Interior Affairs who had direct responsibility for the case,” he added, referring to the sacking of both officials in March 2018 amid the controversy that erupted after the deportations.
“No one is above the law and no institution in Kosovo will violate universal human rights,” Haradinaj said.
Haradinaj also said that he responded to an invitation from the parliamentary committee to be interviewed about the case.
President Hashim Thaci was also invited to be interviewed, but did not respond to the committee’s request.