Turkish dissidents in Bosnia, Montenegro face extradition to Turkey

Two Turkish nationals currently living in Bosnia Herzegovina and Montenegro face extradition to Turkey on Ankara’s request due to their suspected links to the outlawed Gulen movement.

Harun Ayvaz, who was working as an electrical technician in a Gulen-affiliated school in Montenegro, has been kept in prison in the northern Bijelo Polje town since he was detained on August 16.

Following the local court’s ruling for extradition and the appealing process, on October 14, the Higher Court in Bijelo Polje ruled for a second time to extradite Ayvaz to Turkey, where he is wanted for alleged terrorism offenses.

It is now up to Montenegro’s Justice Minister to decide whether to extradite Ayvaz, whose appeal was on Monday rejected by the Appeal Court in Podgorica, according to a report by the Balkan Insight (BIRN).

“Ayvaz faces a big risk of extradition. [But] I have still some hope about the minister’s decision since he previously represented Montenegro to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and knows such cases very well,” BIRN cited Ayvaz’s lawyer Dalibor Tomovic as saying.

Rebecca Harms, a member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, urged Montenegrin authorities to respect international rules and stop the extradition to Turkey, where “there is no rule of law.”

The electrician’s wife, Hakime Ayvaz, previously called on Montenegro authorities in a tweet not to extradite her husband to Turkey since “there is no fair trial.”

Nate Schenkkan, the director for exclusive research at Freedom House, argued on Tuesday that the risk of refoulement to torture should prevent Ayvaz’s extradition.

Fatih Keskin, director of the Gulen-affiliated Richmond Park Schools in northwest Bosnia, is also in the process of being extradited to Turkey after Erdogan reportedly demanded it on his recent visit to Bosnia in July.

He was arrested on December 3, and his permanent residence permit was revoked for unknown reasons believed to be related to national security, BIRN also reported.

Keskin, who had been living and working in Bosnia as a teacher and school director for more than 15 years, has reportedly been kept in a detention center for immigrants in Lukavica, Eastern Sarajevo, for deportation to Turkey since his arrest.

Keskin previously spoke to Bold Medya, an online news portal, about his arrest.

“I was invited to the police station at around 10 am in Bihac, and I was told I violated the rules in Bosnia. Hence my residency was revoked. When I asked which rules I violated, the officers said they did not even know,” he explained.

He added that two police officers, then, forcibly transferred him to Sarajevo refusing to show any official paper and denying him time to meet his lawyer.

According to a report by Klix.ba news portal, Senka Nozica, a lawyer whose office represents Keskin, held forth that there is reasonable suspicion that the Bosnia authorities intend to deport the former principal from the country to Turkey illegally.

The former principal’s students and their parents and school staff, on Tuesday, held a march in Bihac city to protest against his ongoing detention.

The judicial process for Keskin’s case is expected to start with the first hearing scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The Turkish government views the movement led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen as a terrorist organization. Turkey accuses Gulen, as well as his followers, of masterminding the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Since then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has insistently urged many countries to hand over suspected Gulenists and to close down any institutions with alleged links to the preacher’s network.

Since 2016’s attempted putsch bid, Ankara has arrested tens of thousands of people, fired hundreds of thousands from public service jobs, and closed down thousands of companies, NGOs, and educational institutions.

A report by investigative newsroom Correctiv suggested in 2018 that Turkey’s intelligence service (MIT) enforces disappearances of Turkish nationals in the country and abroad to hold them in a secret detention facility located in the capital Ankara.

UK court dismisses Turkey’s appeal over extradition request for Gulenist businessman

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