Turkey behind extraordinary rendition in the Balkans - FT

Turkey is using its political and economic influence in the Balkans to secure the extradition of alleged political opponents, the Financial Times said on Thursday.

Examples include Turkish citizen Harun Çelik, who was returned to Turkey from Albania last year in a manner that resembled the use of extraordinary rendition by the United States following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the newspaper said.

Çelik, who was detained in Albania for allegedly trying to enter the country on a false visa, was later convicted in Turkey for membership of the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the government accuses of leading the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama previously denied to Financial Times that his government had any involvement in the Çelik case. But the newspaper cited several current and former officials across the Balkans as saying they faced “constant” pressure to comply with Turkish demands over figures allegedly linked to the Gülen movement.

“This is transactional diplomacy,” an Albanian government official said, amid an apparent link between Çelik’s removal and Turkey pledging to provide Albania with aid following the November 2019 earthquake, according to the Financial Times.

Similar extraditions of Turkish citizens from Kosovo and Moldova, often linked to Turkish investment deals, had taken place in recent years, the newspaper said.

Turkey has also sought the detention and return of its nationals from Bosnia, where it has faced resistance from local courts.  

“The message is that Turkey makes its own rules and will carve out its own space according to its own preferences no matter what international norms or laws might say - just like the great powers do,” Freedom House Director of Research Strategy Nate Schenkkan told the Financial Times.

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