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Ankara Indicts Six Turks Deported from Kosovo

Turkish prosecutors have demanded heavy prison sentences for the six Turks controversially deported from Kosovo in 2018 – after a report has revealed that Kosovo's intelligence agency led the operation.
Photo: EPA/ ERDEM SAHIN

Turkey has indicted the six Turkish nationals who were controversially deported from Kosovo in March 2018 for their alleged links to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says leads a “terrorist movement”.

Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Wednesday that the prosecution is demanding sentences ranging from 16 years and six months to 28 years and six months for the six.

The six Turks have been held in detention in a Turkish prison for a year since their controversial deportation.

They are: Cihan Ozkan, Kahraman Demirez, Hasan Huseyin Gunakan, Mustafa Erdem, Osman Karakaya and Yusuf Karabina.

Kosovo officials have long claimed that the deportation caught them by surprise, claiming they were not informed about it.

But BIRN reported last week that the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, AKI, conducted the operation, “taking over” Kosovo Police offices in order to lead the deportation operation and telephoning orders to police officers “every two or three minutes”.

On the day of the operation, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said the six Turkish citizens, who all had permission to be in Kosovo, had been deported without his knowledge. “As Prime Minister, I was not informed about this operation,” he wrote on Facebook.

Claiming that misuse of the police and the intelligence agency had taken place, Haradinaj demanded the removal of the then head of the AKI, Driton Gashi, and the Interior Minister, Flamur Sefaj.

President Hashim Thaci also claimed he had not been informed about the operation.

But a report compiled by a US human rights law expert, Tienmu Ma, obtained by BIRN, has revealed that the plans started 17 days before the operation took place, and the Interior Ministry was well briefed.

“On 12 and 19 March, 2018, a senior official from the AKI went personally to the Department for Citizenship, Asylum and Migration [DCAM] in the Ministry of Interior to review the records of six Turkish nationals,” the report says.

The report, based on interviews with officials involved in the operation, says the AKI told DCAM officials that the intelligence agency had the six Turkish nationals “under its surveillance”.

When a parliamentary committee investigating the operation interviewed Shpend Maxhuni, then head of Kosovo Police, he denied having any information about the matter until the Turkish citizens were already back in Turkey.

The report also revealed that the Kosovo authorities, despite being informed who Turkey wanted in advance, mistakenly deported a man called Hasan Hysein Gunakan instead of Hasan Hysein Demir.

Gunakan’s photograph was the only document the Kosovo Police used to establish his identity before they took him to Pristina airport for deportation on March 29, 2018.

On Monday this week, the US embassy in Kosovo called on the authorities to clarify matters and ensure “full accountability for anyone violating the law” – a statement that the British and the German embassies have also supported.

The Kosovo Special Prosecution, which has been collecting evidence to investigate the case, has said that the report will be part of its ongoing investigations.

Die Morina