From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Second ‘Gulenist’ Asylum Seeker Risks Illegal Extradition to Turkey

Turkish citizen Selami Simsek was held by the Albanian government yesterday and was reportedly expected to be extradited to Turkey under pressure from the Turkish government.

Albanian police detained Fax News reporter Bekim Bici in the early hours of the morning as he was filming a video of Turkish citizen Selami Simsek being held at the Interior Ministry.

Journalist Bekim Bici escorted by the police

Simsek was sentenced to a year in prison by the Tirana Court for falsifying travel documents.  After the ruling, he sought asylum in Albania as he believes his life is at risk in Turkey. According to reports, he had been trying to apply for asylum since January and had sent a long letter via his lawyer to the Directorate of Migration and Borders but had not received a response. 

He was arrested alongside his friend Harun Celik as they were travelling to Canada via Rinas Airport. Celik was illegally deported back to Turkey at the behest of the Turkish government, despite extradition procedures not being followed and the fact he had asked for asylum.

They are both considered to be members of the Gulen movement, designated by the Turkish government as terrorists and organisers of the failed state coup in 2016. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used the coup attempt as a reason to crack down on hundreds of thousands of journalists, academics, teachers, and members of civil society that he claims were all involved in the event.

On Monday the Court of Appeal acquitted Simsek of the charges but instead of being released, he was swiftly sent to the Interior Ministry while Minister Sander Lleshaj was still in his office.

Beci was trying to get an interview to cover the unfolding events but police stopped him and escorted him to the police station where he was held for several hours.

Journalist Klodiana Lala said that Simsek was being held last night in a van at the Interior Ministry for hours with no transparency as to why.

Simsek’s father gave a statement to the media last night stating that his son had gone through all of the procedures to obtain asylum and was due to leave to go to the Babrru immigration camp. He said that the van supposed to take him there instead took him to other offices before the Interior Ministry. He said he is scared of what will happen to his son.

Both men claimed that their lives were in danger in Turkey.

It is expected that he will be extradited to Turkey in direct contravention of European Union human rights law, Albanian national law, and international human rights and asylum law. The move to deport Celik under similar circumstances drew criticism from the EU Delegation in Tirana, Council of Europe, Members of European Parliament and civil society both locally and abroad.

In February, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Albania and urged the government to hand over alleged Gulenists while reminding them of the financial and economic help Turkey gives the country.

He added that there are many Gulenists in Albania and that the government “has taken some steps” but Turkey expects it to do more.

Exit tried to call the phone number for the Migration and Border Department listed on their website but it does not work. Emails sent to Interior Ministry asking for clarification have been ignored thus far.