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OSCE Blasts Ukraine For Extradition of a Critical Turkish Blogger to Turkey

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) media branch vehemently criticized the Ukrainian authorities for the extradition of a blogger critical of the Turkish government.

Ukrainian authorities confirmed that journalist and blogger Yusuf Inan had been handed to the Turkish authorities after Kiev received a request to extradite him last October.

Inan, an editor of an online news outlet and former editor of the Yerel Gundem newspaper and its website was detained by authorities in southern Ukraine earlier this month.

“Journalists should not be prosecuted for expressing their opinions and it is of concern that a critical journalist was extradited to Turkey,” said the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir.

“I ask the Ukrainian authorities to clarify whether his freedom of expression and right to appeal were taken into consideration,” Desir said.

A spokesman for Ukrainian prosecutors insisted that “everything had been done in accordance with the national legislation.”

“In July, the request was granted and he was handed over to the Turkish authorities,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko told AFP.

The Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday that Inan was expelled from Ukraine as part of an operation by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) against a “terrorist group.”

Earlier this week, local police spokeswoman Olena Berezhna told AFP that Inan was arrested in the southern city of Mykolaiv by the Ukrainian security service, who removed him to an undisclosed location.

Inan is married to a Ukrainian woman and had a residence permit, Berezhna said.

He was the second Turkish national to be sent back to Turkey from Ukraine within days after the MIT flew suspect Salih Zeki Yigit home in an apparently similar operation.

The detentions were the latest covert overseas swoops against members of the group of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has over the past year carried out multiple overseas operations to seize Gulen sympathizers in countries ranging from Kosovo to Gabon.

The European Union welcomed Turkey’s lifting Thursday a two-year state of emergency but voiced fears it will be offset by other restrictive legislative measures.

The E.U. also reminded President Erdogan’s government that “concrete and lasting improvements” on the rule of law were essential for closer ties between Brussels and Ankara, which is in talks to join the bloc.

“The end of the state of emergency in place in Turkey since the coup attempt of 2016 is a welcome step,” said the E.U.’s diplomatic arm, the external action service.

But it added: “We believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination.”

Erdogan declared the emergency on July 20, 2016, five days after warplanes bombed Ankara and bloody clashes broke out in Istanbul in a doomed putsch bid that claimed 249 lives.

The measure, which normally lasts three months but was extended seven times, ended at 1:00 am on Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday), the state-run Anadolu news agency said, after the government decided not to ask for an eighth extension.

The state of emergency saw the detention of some 80,000 people and about double that number sacked from jobs in public institutions.

The biggest purge of Turkey’s modern history has targeted not just alleged supporters of Gulen, but also Kurdish activists and leftists.

The E.U. statement urged Ankara to respect the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

With the lifting of the state of emergency, it urged Ankara to reverse all measures that continue to undermine the rule of law, independence of the courts and basic democratic freedoms.

“Concrete and lasting improvements in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms remain essential to the prospects of EU-Turkey relations,” it said.

As a result of the crackdown, the E.U. has frozen opening new “chapters” in Turkey’s E.U. membership process.

Negotiations began in 2005 and so far Turkey has opened just 16 out of 33 chapters.

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