Teachers who were forcibly deported to Turkey in a joint operation by the Moldovan and Turkish intelligence agencies in September 2018 were charged with “membership in a terrorist group” by a Turkish prosecutor, judicial documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
According to the document, dated December 18, 2019 by prosecutor Adem Akıncı, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation into 14 Turkish nationals including teachers working for the Orizont schools, reportedly affiliated with the Hizmet/Gülen movement, in Moldova. The investigation was based on espionage files dispatched by Turkish diplomats in Chisinau without any concrete evidence of wrongdoing.
Sedat Hasan Karacaoğlu, Rıza Doğan, Müjdat Çelebi and Mehmet Feridun Tufekçi were among seven teachers from the Orizont schools under investigation. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) conspired with Moldovan authorities to have them abducted in September 2018. Most of the teachers had been living in Moldova more than 20 years.
Turgay Şen, general manager of the Orizont High School in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, was also part of the investigation. Şen was detained by Moldovan police on charges of terrorism financing when he was heading to Chisinau International Airport on March 31, 2018. He was released from police custody the same day and claimed asylum in Moldova.
The Turkish teachers were convicted by Turkish courts on terrorism-related charges and are currently imprisoned in Turkey. For instance, Rıza Doğan, the director of a branch of the Orizont schools, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in July 2019. Doğan, who was accused of financing terrorism, had been living in Moldova since 1993.
The document dated, December 18, 2019, by prosecutor Adem Akıncı:Moldova
Following the intelligence operation, five of the seven Turkish teachers appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which fined Moldova in June 2019 for the abduction of the Turkish teachers at Turkey’s request. The court ordered the government in Chisinau to pay 25,000 euros each to five of the Turkish citizens who took their cases to the ECtHR for violating articles 5.1 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. “Depriving the applicants of their liberty in this way amounted to an extra-legal transfer of persons from the Moldovan territory to Turkey which circumvented all guarantees offered to them by domestic and international law,” it said.
Vasile Botnari, the former head of the country’s secret service, SIS, was also indicted by Moldovan prosecutors over the illegal intelligence operation in 2018. Two former deputy directors of SIS and the head of the Migration and Asylum Bureau avoided criminal prosecution after it was decided that they were just following orders.
Last February General Prosecutor of Moldova Alexandr Stoianoglu addressed those teachers and their families in Turkish. “I am sorry that Moldova could not defend the fundamental rights of the Turkish teachers, and I hope it will be a lesson for all,” he said.
The ECtHR decision also underlined the fact that the Turkish ambassador to Moldova accused the Turkish teachers of terrorism.
Nordic Monitor previously revealed how Turkish diplomats collected information on critics of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Moldova and how intelligence reports have been used in criminal cases in the country.
According to the official police correspondence a company founded in Moldova was investigated as a terrorist entity, with reference to a letter received from the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The information gathered by Turkish diplomats in Chisinau was conveyed to the Turkish police by the ministry to initiate criminal proceedings against people who were named by the Turkish Embassy in Moldova.
According to official reports Turkey has sent 570 extradition requests to 94 countries in the last three-and-a-half years. Over 100 alleged members of the Hizmet/Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by Turkish intelligence and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s global manhunt, according to a statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. They were reportedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment and were denied the right to a fair trial.
Recently UN rapporteurs Luciano Hazan, chair-rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Felipe González Morales, special rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism; and Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment sent a joint letter to the Turkish government to express their concern about the “systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from multiple States to Turkey.”
According to the UN document “[S]tate-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible return of Turkish nationals from third countries may result in serious violations of the individuals’ rights to liberty, personal security, integrity and fair trial in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 3, 5, 9 and 14), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, Articles 7, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19 and 22) and the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT, in particular Article 3), as well as the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance (Articles 2, 3, 6, 7, 13, 14 and 20).”
The UN rapporteurs also referred to “Article 7 of the Declaration [on enforced disappearance] stipulating that no circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.”