Courts in Turkey have sentenced the six alleged ‘gulenists’ deported from Kosovo to 56 years, seven months, and two weeks in prison, RFE reported.
They faced charges related to their membership in what Turkish authorities consider a terrorist organization – the Gulen Movement – and accuse it of staging the failed coup in 2016.
Four teachers of the “Mehmet Akif” high school in Kosovo and a physician were sentenced to approximately 8 years, while the head of the “Gulistan” NGO administering the school, Mustafa Erdem was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
They were arrested and immediately deported from Kosovo to Turkey on 29 March 2018, in a secret operation arranged between the Kosovo and Serbia secret services. All Turkish citizens had legal residence permits in Kosovo.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said he was not informed of the operation, and fired the minister of interior and the head of the secret service.
President Hashim Thaci supported the deportation, stating that the teachers “endangered Kosovo’s security”.
A parliamentary committee investigating the arrest and deportation found 31 violations by the Kosovo secret service and police. It concluded that the whole secret operation was illegal and unconstitutional.
Current Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister Driton Selmanaj, who at that time was part of the parliamentary committee investigating the case did not reply to REL questions regarding the deportation and sentencing.
During the investigation in 2018, Selmanaj had stated that the deportation was “the most egregious case of violation of any norm and legal and constitutional provision by state authorities.”
However, no one was charged in Kosovo, and authorities try to avoid the topic.
Human rights organizations argue that they were sentenced on fabricated terrorism charges, in violation of human rights.