LONDON-06 September 2018
On 6 September 2018, Moldovan and Turkish intelligence services arbitrarily detained 6 Turkish nationals in Moldova over links to the Hizmet Movement to take them to Turkey. The detainees’ whereabouts are currently unknown.
The detainees are teachers working for Orizont Moldovan-Turkish Schools, a Hizmet affiliated school operating since 1999 in Chișinău’s Durleşti neighbourhood. The teachers were apprehended either on their way to the school or from their houses. Intelligence members used force to break into the house of one of the teachers. The Turkish press claims that the operation was conducted by the Turkish Intelligence (MIT).
The names of the detained teachers are Hasan Karacaoğlu, Hüseyin Bayraktar, Rıza Doğan, Feridun Tüfekçi, Yasin Öz, and Müjdat Çelebi. Tüfekçi is the principal of the Ceadir-Lunga branch of the schools, and Rıza Doğan is the principal of the Durleşti branch. Apart from Hüseyin Bayraktar, all the other five people had sought asylum in the country in April 2018 and were awaiting a response from the Moldovan authorities. The relatives have not been informed of the whereabouts of the detainees. It is thought that they will be taken to an airport to be illegally extradited to Turkey.
Amnesty International, Moldova published an urgent appeal asking officials to conclude the investigation as soon as possible and put an end to the violations committed against the detainees. Marie Struthers, Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said, “The latest arrests in Moldova follow the pattern of political reprisals against Turkish nationals living abroad by the increasingly repressive government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”
Turgay Sen, the general director of the Orizont Schools was first detained in April 2018 by Moldovan security forces at the request of Turkish officials who want his extradition. He applied for asylum after the incident.
What does this mean?
- Turkey’s AKP regime has been systematically using a variety of methods to target Hizmet participants outside Turkey and take them back to Turkey by any means.
- So far, more than a hundred Hizmet-linked Turkish nationals have been taken back to Turkey by intelligence service operations in coordination with countries such as Kosovo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Gabon and Myanmar.
- Stockholm Center for Freedom has documented an increasing number of abductions and enforced disappearances of the Erdogan regime’s critics by the Turkish government. Most of the victims are believed to be Hizmet people.
- A pro-government Turkish journalist, Cem Küçük, has said that MIT has the authorisation to conduct operations abroad and many overseas Turks are willing to carry out assassinations on behalf of MIT.
- In March 2017, Switzerland launched a criminal investigation into foreign spying by Ankara on the country’s Turkish community.
- In November 2017, ex-Trump aide Michael Flynn was investigated in the US for an alleged plan to kidnap Fethullah Gülen in return for $15m.
- In March 2018, Turkish intelligence forces abducted 6 Turkish nationals, including 5 teachers and a doctor, from Kosovo, and took them back to Turkey.
- The Kosovo arrests sparked a political crisis in Kosovo, resulting in the dismissal of the home minister and the chief of intelligence. In the same week, President Erdogan acknowledged that the operation was carried out by MIT.
- In response to the Kosovo arrests, Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch, wrote on Twitter, “Beyond the complete lack of due process, the six Turks who may have been sent from Kosovo to Turkey would face severe risk of torture and abuse.”
- In a report on the diaspora politics of Turkey in the UK, the Turkey Institute, a London-based research centre, concluded that “there are illegal activities conducted by the Turkish state which target dissidents of the regime abroad often by means of labelling people by creating lists, sometimes kidnapping individuals, and even assassinating Turkish-/Kurdish-origin political dissidents living abroad, resulting in the generation of fear among the diaspora.”
- As a response to the Moldova abductions, Freedom House analyst Nate Schenkkan says that “Turkey is a midsize power globally, but a heavyweight in its neighbourhood, and is willing to use a variety of tools of the state, including threats and bribery, to get what it wants. In neighbours with weak rule of law and corrupt security services, it is easy to tip the balance. This matters everywhere, but in Europe (Moldova, Kosovo, Bosnia, Bulgaria) it is directly in conflict with European Union and the US) goals of democratic transformation.”
Dr Ismail Mesut Sezgin, Director of the Centre for Hizmet Studies, said:
Turkey’s AKP regime has been relentlessly persecuting the Hizmet Movement in and outside Turkey with no regard to the rule of law. The systematic and coordinated nature of attempts to extra-judicially render people from other countries to Turkey suggests that a special unit exists in MIT to target the Hizmet Movement abroad. This further suggests that abductions and other illegal activities by the Turkish intelligence services will become more common especially in countries where democracy and due process is weaker and the Turkish government can put pressure. So far, in over 15 countries, and three continents all over the world, Turkey’s pressures have resulted in arrests and illegal deportations of 100 people This has reached an even more worrying level, seeing that this is the second time after the Kosovo case that such kidnappings and arbitrary detentions have taken place on European soil, which is totally at odds with the letter and spirit of the European Union.
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