Kosovo will investigate the extradition of six alleged followers of Fethullah Gulen's Islamic movement. The operation could have ramifications for the country as Kosovo seeks to strengthen ties with the European Union.
On Saturday, Kosovo's prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj, ordered a probe into the arrest and deportation of six Turkish nationals from Kosovo in an operation he says was ordered without his knowledge.
Officials in Ankara have alleged that the six men were members of the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen's Islamic movement.
The men — five teachers from a Gulen school and a doctor — were extradited to Turkey on Thursday in an operation executed by Kosovo's Interior Ministry and spy service, along with Turkey's National Intelligence Organization.
Following an emergency meeting with national security staff, Haradinaj reiterated that he had not been informed of the operation, which has led him to dismiss Interior Minister Flamur Sefaj and Intelligence chief Driton Gashi .
"They were obliged to inform me," Haradinaj said. "They did not. They did not have enough trust to share the case with me, so I no longer trust them. They have lost my confidence."
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Haradinaj said he ordered each of the institutions involved to "fully engage in clarifying institutional responsibilities, possible constitutional and legal violations, and immediately undertake comprehensive, detailed investigations."
Turkish officials blame Gulen for the failed 2016 coup, a claim that the cleric and members of his movement have denied.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was "saddened" that Haradinaj had dismissed Kosovo's interior minister and intelligence chief for deporting the men without his permission.
Erdogan said Haradinaj would "pay" for his actions and asked: "Since when have you begun to protect those who work to stage a coup against the Turkish Republic?"
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The Turkish state news agency Anadolu described the men as senior individuals in the Gulen movement.
The Istanbul prosecutor is investigating the men, who, according to Anadolu, were organizing the movement of Gulenists from Turkey to the United States and countries in Europe.
Turkey has branded the Gulen movement a terror organization that aims to topple the government, according to President Erdogan.
Florian Bieber, a Balkans expert at the University of Graz in Austria, told the news agency Reuters that the incident could be detrimental to Kosovo, a country that is trying to build closer ties with the European Union.
"It certainly will hurt Kosovo, both for throwing doubt on the rule of law and political authority, and for cooperating with a regime that is authoritarian and increasingly antagonistic to the EU," Bieber told Reuters.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Kosovo authorities over the arrests.
"In addition to the questionable arrests, the men were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture," HRW reported in a statement.
law/ng (AFP, Reuters)