Top European Court Censures Moldova for ‘Extra-legal Transfer’ of Five Turks
Europe’s top rights court on Tuesday condemned Moldova over the “extra-legal transfer” of five Turkish nationals over their alleged ties to an Islamic preacher blamed for an attempted coup in 2016.
They were among a group of seven who were arrested in Moldova in September 2018 and put on a special plane back to Turkey in a joint operation between Turkish and Moldovan intelligence.
“Arresting the applicants and extraditing them to Turkey amounted to an extra-legal transfer” the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) said.
It found that Moldova’s transfer of the five men had violated their rights to freedom, security and to private and family life.
All were in their 40s and working for Orizont, a network of private secondary schools which has operated in Moldova since the early 1990s.
Turkey accuses the Orizont schools of ties to Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher Ankara says was behind the failed coup of July 2016. Gulen has consistently denied the charges.
The five were arrested by the Moldovan secret service and taken directly to Chisinau airport and put on a specially-chartered plane. Their families had no knowledge of their fate for several weeks.
All five are currently detained in Turkey. Two other teachers were also transferred with them.
25,000 Euros in Damages
In forcibly transferring them back to Turkey, the Moldovan authorities had circumvented the guarantees offered them by domestic and international law, the court found, ordering Chisinau to pay each man 25,000 euros ($28,300) in damages.
Following the coup bid, Turkey launched a crackdown that has seen tens of thousands of people taken into custody over alleged ties to Gulen while more than 140,000 public sector employees have been sacked or suspended.
Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe (CoE), the pan-European rights body to which the ECtHR belongs. The ECtHR has on multiple occasions condemned Turkey over prosecutions in the wake of the coup bid.
Turkey has conducted several operations to snatch coup suspects from the territory of other countries, usually with the approval and sometimes help of the local authorities,
As well as Moldova, suspects were taken from Kosovo, Gabon and Ukraine.