Kosovo parliament to probe arrests of Turkish nationals

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo parliament voted on Wednesday to set up a committee to investigate how six Turkish citizens were arrested and deported to Turkey in a move that activists say violated human rights.

FILE PHOTO: Kosovo's Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj talks during an interview with Reuters in Pristina, Kosovo, October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Hazir reka/File Photo/File Photo

The six Turkish nationals were arrested in Kosovo last week at Turkey’s request over alleged links to schools financed by the Gulen movement, which Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup.

On Friday Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj sacked his interior minister and country’s secret service chief for failing to inform him about the arrests.

Haradinaj, who described the arrests as a “mistake”, has ordered a separate investigation.

Avdullah Hoti, head of the lawmakers from the opposition party the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) that initiated the emergency session in the 120-seat parliament, said he was “shocked” by the arrests of the six - teachers and managers at schools.

“Instead of being interviewed by authorities in Pristina, they were urgently deported to Turkey,” Hoti said.

Ankara accuses the six of being recruiters for a network run by the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, and said they had helped people accused of connections to the network to leave Turkey. Ankara blames Gulen and his movement for the coup attempt in 2016. Gulen denies involvement.

Human Rights Watch criticized the Kosovo authorities over the arrests saying the six men “were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture”.

Speaking in a live television interview on Wednesday, Haradinaj said he had spoken to Washington and the European Union, its two main economic and political supporters, about the incident.

“I have assured the EU and Washington that this was a mistake and an accident and I have asked them for their understanding and help to fix this,” Haradinaj told private Dukagjini television.

Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by Alison Williams