A request by the Turkish government to arrest and extradite an education volunteer affiliated with a civic group critical of the Turkish president was denied by authorities in Mozambique.
According to Turkish government documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, démarches delivered by the Turkish ambassador in Maputo for the deportation of Mehmet Ali Çoban, a prominent businessman living in Mozambique, were rejected by the Mozambican Interpol service.
Çoban was accused by the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of supporting the International Willow Schools in Mozambique, considered by many to be the most prestigious secondary schools in the country. In fact, he made a donation for the construction of a new school building, the opening ceremony of which was attended by national and local politicians, high-level officials and diplomats in 2011.
A communication dated September 8, 2016, and signed by Murat Demirelli, a judge and head of the Directorate General for International Law and Foreign Relations at the Turkish Justice Ministry, revealed once again the role of Turkish diplomatic representatives in the fraudulent use and systematic abuse of Interpol mechanisms to advance political persecution, harass critics, run intimidation campaigns and hunt down government opponents.
The documents also expose how Turkish diplomats plotted the deportation of critics who live abroad. The embassy first canceled Çoban’s passport, and the cancelation, then, was used against Çoban with a view to securing his deportation based on his lack of an international travel document. But the correspondence showed that the Mozambican Interpol service rejected this illegal and unofficial deportation request, instead advising the Turkish side to go through diplomatic channels.
According to Article 23 of the Turkish Constitution, freedom of movement can be restricted by law for the purpose of investigation and prosecution of an offense and for the prevention of offenses. Moreover, a Turkish citizen’s freedom to leave the country may be restricted only by the decision of a judge based on a criminal investigation or prosecution. It demonstrates the arbitrary rule in Turkey, which is run by a one-man regime without respect for due process and in blatant violation of fundamental rights enshrined in the Turkish Constitution.
Demirelli urged the Foreign Ministry to reiterate the request for the deportation of Çoban through diplomatic channels since extradition, in Demirelli’s view, requires a “longer” and much more “complicated” process. In fact, the correspondence exposed how the Turkish judicial system has been violating the bilateral agreements and international conventions to which Turkey is a party.
Turkish Justice Ministry document confirming that Turkish embassies and consulates have been transformed into regime tools:maputo3_Redacted
On November 6, 2018, the Justice Ministry forwarded an extradition request filed by the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to the Foreign Ministry to start an official extradition process. The extradition file was based on a frivolous indictment submitted to the Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court. The Justice Ministry document pointed out that the Mozambican authorities again declined the request via diplomatic channels and that the decision of the Interpol service was conveyed to the Turkish Embassy in Maputo.
According to the court documents, the high criminal court accepted the prosecutor’s indictment, under file No. 2016/1370, which accused Mehmet Ali Çoban and his family members of undermining the constitutional order by donating to schools and institutions affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Turkish Muslim scholar who describes terrorism as “the foremost threat to human life” and condemns all kinds of extremist and radical acts.
Official correspondence communicated by the Turkish Justice Ministry’s Directorate General for International Law and Foreign Relations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also proved that Turkish embassies have been instructed by the authorities to use the Interpol mechanism as an alternative to extradition mechanisms regulated by the European Convention on Extradition (ECE), which does not apply to political or military offenses.
The Turkish president turned against the Gülen movement after major corruption investigations in December 2013 that incriminated Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates. The order to spy on Gülen-affiliated people and organizations came in early 2014, and volunteers of the movement were targeted with criminal prosecutions on based on fabricated charges of terrorism.
The Erdoğan government has been trying to pressure foreign governments to hand over schools affiliated with Gülen to the Maarif Foundation, a Turkish-government-run entity that is administered by jihadist figures close to the government. Gülen previously revealed that he had rejected Erdoğan’s demand to tap schools operated by businesspeople aligned with his movement for use in promoting the Turkish president’s political goals, which prompted the Turkish government to establish Maarif in order to compete with and take over Gülen schools.
The people and schools in Mozambique that were targeted by Erdoğan’s envoy are also believed to be affiliated with Gülen, who has become a vocal critic of Erdoğan for pervasive corruption in the government and the Turkish regime’s clandestine support for armed jihadist groups including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.
So far, the Erdoğan government has managed to take over 217 schools in 18 countries where the rule of law and democratic principles were problematic – Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, Cameron, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Tunisia, Chad, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Pakistan and Ethiopia — using bribes, political pressure, blackmail, promises of investment and trade deals.
Despite Erdoğan’s call for the closure of these schools, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has expressed his support and gratitude to the educational volunteers affiliated with the Gülen movement for their contributions to his country, saying that “the schools in my country are enshrined in my people’s hearts. You can simply see me as a co-partner and a strong supporter of these schools.”
According to its web page, Willow schools fosters an understanding of human values, confidence and responsibility to society. They aim for academic quality with the understanding that all children have different abilities, skills and interests, which, if developed and nurtured, will enable them to become mature, self-sufficient and productive members of their communities.
The Justice Ministry document concerning the extradition request:maputo1_Redacted
Turkey was criticized in several reports by international bodies for abusing Interpol’s law enforcement mechanisms in order to silence Erdoğan critics from all segments of Turkish society. According to these reports, Turkey had sought Red Notices for 60,000 more individuals in 2016. A report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) claimed that the Turkish government has abused Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (STLD) database by “claiming missing, lost or revoked passports and travel documents for critics and opponents who, in many instances, are not even aware that their passports and travel documents have been invalidated.”
As a result of similar cases, Interpol had to prohibit the use of its communications channels to interact on any issue that concerned a 2016 failed coup in Turkey because it contravened the provisions of Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution. Article 3 “strictly forbids the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.” Additionally, it must deal with ordinary crimes as defined by Article 2 of the constitution.
It is clear that Turkish diplomats in Mozambique violated not only Article 23 of the Turkish Constitution but also international human rights principles such as those included in the 4th Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) by taking part in the unlawful operations of the Erdoğan regime. The 4th Protocol of the ECHR, which governs freedom of movement, has been signed by Turkey but never ratified by parliament. However, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled on several occasions regarding the issue within the context that Turkey has violated the right defined by Article 8 of the ECHR.
Furthermore, according to Article 7 of the ECHR, “No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or mission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.” The Constanta (Romania) Court of Appeals recently decided in line with the relevant articles of the ECHR that the Gülen movement has never committed any act of terrorism and that the extradition of members of the movement to Turkey may result in the prosecution or punishment of a person for reasons of race, religion, political or ideological opinion or membership in a certain social group.