Moldovan and Turkish intelligence services on Thursday detained six Turkish nationals working for a private chain of high schools in Moldova that is linked to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turkish pro-government media on Thursday said the Turkish intelligence service, the MIT, had participated in the detaining of six Turkish nationals that morning in Moldova and had taken them into an unknown direction.
All six were teachers or students at the Horizont Turkish high-school private chain, which is seen as close to the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. One was only 14 years old, but he was shortly released.
"They were taken this morning, but my son and his professor were released. But another professor was taken after they broke down his door,” the father of the teen said.
He added that he feared that the others would be sent to Turkey on the first flight from Chisinau.
The detainees were named as Riza Dogan, director of the Durlesti branch of the Horizont school network, Hasan Karacaoglu, deputy general manager, Yasin Ozdil, responsible for public relations at the same school, Ahmet Bilgi, director of Ciocana branch of the school chain and Feridon Tufekci, director of the Ceadir-Lunga branch of the network.
Moldova's secret service, the SIS, stated that it had conducted an operation designed to prevent threats to national security in several localities. The actions were carried out by the SIS Antiterrorist Center.
However, Turkish media claimed it was their own intelligence service, the MIT, that carried out the detentions. "The MIT, which earlier dealt a major blow to FETO’s Balkan branch [Kosovo] ... is now conducting an operation in Moldova," a Turkish media outlet reported.
Turkey routinely styles Gulen supporters as members of the "FETO", the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation.
Turkey's government has vowed to track down and bring home people it sees as linked to Gulen. The Ankara government blames the exiled cleric for a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
Turkey has also put countries in the Balkans under strong pressure to close down any educational or charitable institutions linked to Gulen.
On March 31, Turgay Sen, a Turkish national and director of the Horizont high-school private chain was detained without explanation by the SIS.
Sen was accused of financing terrorism and banned from leaving the country for 10 days, until April 10. He was released after he filled in a request for political asylum in Moldova to avoid extradition or rendition to Turkey.
Less than two weeks before Sen’s arrest, Moldovan President Igor Dodon announced that he had met his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan at Istanbul airport on March 18, and had talked about Turkey repairing the Presidency building in Chisinau, which was damaged in the street riots on April 7, 2009, which toppled the then Communist-led government.
Erdogan was expected in Moldova on August 27 on the National Day of Moldova to open the new Presidential Palace, but the ceremony has been postponed to October.
Dodon said on Wednesday on a TV political show that he expected the Turkish President for the grand opening.
There are five Horizont high schools in Moldova. The educational institution opened in 1993. They host 1,691 pupils and employ about 376 staff from Moldova, Turkey and Albania.
Kosovo and Bulgaria have both returned suspected “Gulenists” to Turkey despite sharp criticism from rights organisations, and sometimes from the EU.
In April, the European Union criticized Kosovo for deporting six Turkish alleged foes of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying it raised questions about Kosovo’s respect for human rights. The deportations on March 29 were approved by Kosovo’s interior minister and intelligence chief, prompting their dismissal by Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who said the officials had acted without his permission. The deportees allegedly had ties to the Gulen movement, which Turkey calls the “FETO terrorist movement”.
In October 2016, Bulgaria returned to Turkey at least six people who were allegedly linked to Gulen networks. Border police found them in Ruse, on the border with Romania, where they had attempted to cross over. After all of them claimed asylum, they were told that they would be taken a refugee centre – but the vehicle took them instead to the Turkish border.
Turkey has continued to pressure Bulgaria over the same issue, however. Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu recently reportedly asked his Bulgarian counterpart to check 14 organizations and schools where Turkey suspects Gulen supporters work.
In Macedonia, meanwhile, a court in August 2017 fined a dual Macedonian-Turkish citizen, a suspected Gulen supporter, for insulting Turkish President Erdogan on Facebook. Turkish Ambassador Tulin Erkal Kara hailed the court victory, which fined the accused 24,600 Macedonian denars [$4,600], saying it set an example. “All Turkish missions, agencies here carry out a serious struggle against FETÖ traitors and we managed to restrict their activities and this insult case helped us to silence
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