Turkey has jailed another of the seven teachers controversially deported from Moldova last year – handing down a stiff prison sentence of 12 years.
A Turkish court on Friday jailed an employee of the Orizont private high school chain in Moldova, Yasin Ozdil – who was handed over to Turkey in 2018 in a joint secret service operation – for 12 years.
Ozdil formerly headed the public relations department for a branch of the school chain in the Durlesti area, near the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
The schools are reportedly connected to the movement headed by the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara considers a terrorist. Turkey refers to his movement as the FETO, or Fethullah Terrorist Organisation, and holds it responsible for the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 – which Gulen has denied any connection to.
Before coming to Moldova in 2015, Ozdil worked for the presidential office of former Turkish president Abdullah Gul.
He was detained on September 6, 2018, when the Moldovan secret services, SIS, broke down his door and took him from the apartment where he lived with his family. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have called it a classic case of kidnapping.
The last message on his Facebook account read: “They entered my home to catch me pls police help me.”
Ozdil is the fifth of seven professors controversially expelled from Moldova last year to be sentenced by a Turkish court, after being unwillingly returned home. All of them had filed for political asylum in Moldova before they were seized and sent back to Turkey.
In July, Riza Dogan, director of the same Durlesti branch of the school chain in Moldova, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in Turkey. Another three professors have been sentenced since the beginning of this year.
The head of the Moldovan commission for national security, defence and public order, Chiril Motpan, said on Friday, after conducting some hearings on this case, with the chief of the SIS among others, that the decision to expel the Turks had been political.
He said the main actors implicated in the rendition operation were the former deputy head of the anti-terrorism center of SIS, Alexandru Baltaga, and Vasile Botnari, a politician affiliated with the former ruling Democratic Party.
Motpan added that those invited to the hearings had invoked several causes in defence of the deportations, including planned terrorist attacks, espionage for the benefit of another state, or even paedophilia.
He said their claims were unconvincing. “The SIS representatives did not provide us with clear evidence of terrorist acts. No notes, reports, evidence were presented in this regard. It was an arbitrary decision with violations of legal provisions that damaged Moldova’s external image,” he concluded.
After the controversial rendition, Turkey showed its appreciation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came himself to Chisinau to re-open the presidential palace in Chisinau that had been renovated for President Igor Dodon with Turkish funds.
Some Turkish companies meanwhile received important contracts from the previous government of Moldova, led by the Democratic Party, to build roads and a national sports arena.
On June 11, 2019, the ECHR ruled that the Government of Moldova should pay 25,000 euros to each of the Turkish citizens whose rights had been violated. So far, five of them have addressed the ECHR.
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