Students of Mehmet Akif College in Kosovo protest the arrest and deportation of their teachers in Prishtina on Thursday, March 29, 2018. AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu.

Turkish national arrested in Kosovo sentenced to eight years in prison

Facing eight years and one month in prison, Hasan Hysein Guakan becomes the fourth of six Turkish nationals deported in 2018 from Kosovo to Turkey to be found guilty of ‘membership in an armed terrorist group’ by an Istanbul court. 

Hasan Hysein Gunakan, one of the six Turkish nationals that were deported from Kosovo to Turkey on March 29, 2018, has been sentenced to eight years and one month imprisonment by a court in Istanbul on changes of being a member of an armed terrorist group. The court acquitted Gunakan on the charge of international espionage.

Turkish newspaper ‘Sabah’ reported that the judgment came after an investigation by the Special Prosecution Office and the Turkish Intelligence Agency, MIT.

The sentence is the third handed down to members of the group of six following their deportation from Kosovo. Osman Karakaya and Cihan Ozkan were sentenced to seven years and six months imprisonment in November 2019, while Kahraman Demirez was sentenced to eight years, nine months imprisonment on December 26, 2019, all on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist group.

The six men were detained over links to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, which Turkey refers to as the Fethullah Terror Organisation, or FETO, and blames for a failed coup in 2016. 

Five of those that were arrested, including Gunakan, worked at Gulistan educational institutions in Kosovo, specifically the Mehmet Akif high school and elementary schools in Prizren and Gjakova. Mustafa Erden and Yusuf Karabina, previously director and deputy director of the schools are still standing trial.

A commission launched by the Kosovo Assembly in April 2018 to review the legality of the expulsions specifically names Gunakan’s deportation as unlawful. 

The report produced by the commission concluded in February 2019 that Gunakan’s deportation was in violation of Kosovo’s Administrative Instruction on the Return of Foreigners with Illegal Residence in Kosovo, as well as the Constitution and various international human rights law principles. 

According to Sabah, Gunakan challenged his deportation and denied any links to the Fethullah Gulen movement. “I do not accept the accusation of membership in the organization. It is claimed that I was brought legally,” he said during the trial. “However, the Kosovo parliamentary research commission does not accept that we were brought here legally.” 

Gunakan’s lawyer also denied the accusations of his client’s membership in the organization and demanded his release and acquittal. “I do not accept the claim that I am organizing something. I was a teacher,” Gunakan is reported to have said in his last address to the court. “The documents in my file are also in my favor. I want my acquittal.”

The arrest and subsequent deportation of the six men proved controversial in Kosovo; with outgoing Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj claiming the actions occurred without his knowledge. Head of the Intelligence Agency, Driton Gashi, and the Minister of the Interior Flamur Sefaj were both fired over the incident.

In February 2019, the commission also announced that it had found 31 violations of law and procedure by Kosovo’s institutions, including the Kosovo Intelligence Agency and Kosovo Police, and that their findings had been submitted to the Kosovo state prosecution. In August, the Kosovo Police Inspectorate also filed a report to the prosecution regarding the deportations, in which the 22 members of the Kosovo Police are alleged to have been named.

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28 January 2020 - 17:07

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.