The Service for Foreigners’ Affairs of Bosnia’s Security Ministry has withdrawn four Turks’ residence permits, their lawyer told the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) – a move that follows a visit in July by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who reportedly asked the Sarajevo authorities for several extraditions over links to the faith-based Gülen movement.
“We appealed the decisions [by the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs], but the Security Ministry rejected our appeal, so administrative proceedings are now being conducted before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said the Turks’ lawyer, Nedim Ademovic.
“The Bosnian state court has prohibited the Bosnian authorities from enforcing the decisions made by the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina prior to the completion of these court proceedings,” he added.
Media have reported that Erdoğan brought a list of people he wanted to be extradited to Turkey by the Bosnian authorities when he visited Sarajevo in July.
Erdoğan reportedly believes they are followers of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose movement the Turkish government blames for a failed coup in the country in 2016 and describes as a “terrorist group.”
Since the failed coup, the Turkish authorities have detained thousands of suspected “Gülenists” and put pressure on governments abroad to extradite suspects.
The Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, confirmed that Erdoğan “had requests” during his visit.
On July 15, after Erdoğan’s visit, lawyers Nedim Ademovic and Senka Nozica said proceedings for the withdrawal of residence permits for seven Turkish citizens were being conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina after Turkey submitted a document declaring their passports invalid.
Ademovic said residence permits for four Turkish citizens were then withdrawn in early September.
“The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Turkey – the General Directorate of Security – declared these persons’ passports invalid,” the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs said.
The Service for Foreigners’ Affairs also said that it withdrew the Turks’ residence permits because they did not fulfill the legal requirements for permanent residence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ademovic said that the state court would rule on whether or not the Bosnian authorities had acted lawfully.
“We shall continue to the end in this process and turn to the European Court of Human Rights, if need be. I am convinced that unless the mistakes made by the Security Ministry of Bosnia and Herzegovina are corrected, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be condemned before international courts,” he said.
He pointed out that the four Turks had not been in Turkey during the 2016 coup attempt and had nothing to do with it.
He also said there had been no requests for their extradition to Turkey. Even if there had been, Ademovic pointed out, such requests have previously been rejected by the Bosnian authorities.
Turkey has also put pressure on other Balkan states, such as Albania and North Macedonia, to extradite alleged Gülenists and shut down schools allegedly linked to the exiled cleric. Kosovo’s deportation of six Turkish citizens alleged to be members of Gülen’s movement caused a major political storm in the country.