The Albanian government has complied with requests from Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan and deported teacher Harun Celik who is linked to the Gulen Global movement which is alleged to be behind the failed 2016 coup attempt.
On the evening of 1 January, Celik was deported from Rinas Airport, as confirmed by State Police spokesperson Gentjan Mullai.
“The person was in jail after being apprehended by the Rinas border police with false documents. Pursuant to the ‘Aliens’ law, he will be expelled”. Mullai told Reporter.al. When they contacted Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office for comment, it was claimed that the issue was a “matter of legal proceedings, not related to the Prime Minister.”
Celik’s lawyer Alban Bengasi told Voice of America that the actions against him are unlawful.
“Harun Celik has already been deported illegally, outside national procedures and national legislation. Even for an act of deportation, which is brought against a foreign national, an administrative act is issued, ie an expulsion order. This order is accompanied by a time limit for leaving the territory of the Republic of Albania. Then the person can challenge this act in the administrative court, so it is the court that decides whether the order is legal or illegal, ” he said.
Celik had been initially apprehended for falsifying documents and served several months in prison. He had requested political asylum but it was refused by prison police authorities.
Following the failed coup in 2016 that Erdogan believes was organised by Fethullah Gulen, he set about a global and national crackdown on anyone he believed to be linked to the so-called “terrorist”. Over 150,000 civil servants, soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges and academics have been suspended or fired, whilst tens of thousands of them, as well as hundreds of journalists, have been jailed or prosecuted on spurious charges.
In August, it was reported that some 300,000 books had been removed from Turkish schools and libraries and around 1.8 million had been destroyed. This was due to them containing “objectionable” words that could be linked to Gulen, including ‘Pennsylvania’ where he is currently living, and even any books containing his initials for any reason.
Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt but that has not stopped the Turkish government pursuing his schools, employees or associates across the world, asking governments to deport them
In 2018, Kosovo expelled six Turkish citizens that were supposedly linked to the Gulen movement. The move sparked international outrage and criticism from both the EU and the US due to the fact it violated due process, the rule of law, and violated their fundamental human rights.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj denied involvement and dismissed the head of the country’s secret services and the interior minister.
In 2019, school director Fatih Keskin was arrested in Bosnia after having his residence permit revoked for reasons allegedly relating to “national security”. An alleged “Gulenist”, Keskin was due to be deported but a court in Sarajevo overturned the decision and he will be allowed to remain in the country for now. Extraditions have been refused by the Romanian courts and the US.
This deportation means that Albania joins a small number of countries that have obeyed Erdogan’s request that any person linked to the Gulen movement, be sent back to the country. Albania is a signatory of the Council of Europe Convention of Extradition which stipulates that no one may be extradited to a State where they are at risk of torture, death, or inhuman and degrading treatment. In addition to this, Article 19 (2) of the European Charter of Human Rights, also prevents such actions.
The Democratic Party called for transparency around the expulsion and questioned whether it violates the law, international conventions, and human rights.
“It is a priority for any democratic country, especially in the process of European integration to respect these principles, rights, and obligations. Their transgression is back in order for Edi Rama’s corrupt and incriminated government,” the DP said in a statement.
Last year, the Municipality of Tirana erected a monument at the Lake Park in memory of those killed in the failed coup attempt. It is believed to be the only monument of its kind, outside of Turkey and was widely opposed, and finally destroyed.