Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday lashed out at Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj for dismissing the interior minister and the secret service chief over the abduction of six Turkish nationals to Turkey, threatening that he would pay for it.
“Our National Intelligence Organization packed up and brought [to Turkey] six top level member [of the Gülen movement] in the Balkans, with an operation in Kosovo. But I am unhappy because the Kosovo prime minister has dismissed the secret service chief and the interior minister,” Erdoğan said during a party meeting in Istanbul’s Pendik district.
“I am asking: O! Prime minister of Kosovo: Under whose orders did you take such a step? Since when did you start to protect people who tried to carry out a coup against Turkey?” he added.
Asking Haradinaj if he was aware that Turkey was the second country to recognize the independence of Kosovo, Erdoğan said: “You will pay for harboring those people who tried to perpetrate a coup against Turkey.”
Erdoğan also said he was sure that Kosovars would hold Prime Minister Haradinaj accountable.
On Thursday morning Kosovo police arrested six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working at a group of schools affiliated with the faith–based Gülen movement. It was reported that they were transferred to Turkey the same day.
The arrests sparked a political crisis in Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Haradinaj on Friday dismissed the interior minister and the secret service chief.
Haradinaj said on Thursday: “The entire operation — revoking their residence permits, detention, emergency deportation and the secret extradition to Turkey of the six Turkish citizens from Kosovo territory — was conducted without my knowledge and without my permission.”
President Hashim Thaci also commented on the developments: “Today we are disappointed because our relevant institutions, for reasons that remain to be clarified to the end, have failed to defend these principles related to the human rights of foreign nationals who live and work in our country. I am informed by the competent authorities after the event that six citizens were deported today to Turkey on the grounds that they did not have a residence permit in Kosovo.”
But Thaci changed his tone on Saturday and said he was informed by the intelligence service that “their arrest and deportation is related to their illegal and dangerous activity in Kosovo.”
He also hinted that he was not pleased with the dismissal of the interior minister and secret service chief.
Leutrim Syla, lawyer for the six Turkish nationals — Cihan Ozkan, Kahraman Demirez, Hasan Huseyin Gunakan, Mustafa Erdem, Osman Karakaya and Yusuf Karabina — said on Friday that his clients would most likely face torture or ill treatment and harsh punishment if they are deported to Turkey.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, on Saturday tweeted that six Turkish nationals who were arrested by Kosovar police on Thursday and apparently spirited out of the country by Turkish intelligence later in the day would face the risk of torture and abuse in Turkey.
“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. Whereabouts unclear,” Roth said on his Twitter account.