April 23, 2018 / 12:07 PM / 7 months ago

Bosnia court rejects extradition of Turkish national over Gulen's links

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A Bosnian court has dismissed a request for extradition to Turkey of a Turkish national, one among several wanted for alleged links to the Fethullah Gulen movement which Ankara has blamed for the failed coup in Turkey in 2016.

The court’s final ruling comes at a time of increased pressure by Turkey on its allies to deport people believed to be linked to schools financed by Gulen, whose movement Ankara has declared a terrorist organisation.

Last month, six Turkish nationals arrested in Kosovo over links to Gulen’s schools were secretly extradited to Turkey, prompting Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj to dismiss the interior minister and the state security chief.

Ankara accuses Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, of orchestrating the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. He denies any connection with the abortive putsch.

The Appeals Chamber of Bosnia’s state court last month ruled against the extradition of Humeyra Gokcen on the grounds that she had requested asylum in Bosnia before Turkey had asked for her extradition. The ruling was not made public.

In the decision obtained by Reuters, the court also said that allegations that Gokcen was a member of a terrorist organisation could not be sustained because the FETO organisation has not been verified as such by resolutions of the United Nations or the Council of Europe.

The court did not provide more details on the case nor did it comment on whether there were other such requests for deportation.

But a source close to the matter confirmed to Reuters on Monday that Turkey has requested the extradition of several more people who have arrived in Bosnia after the coup attempt, over links to the schools believed to be financed by the Gulen network.

Even though Bosnia has taken no concrete steps against these schools, some Turkish teachers have left the country under political pressure since the failed coup.

Last month, during his visit to Sarajevo, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that more action should be taken against Gulen’s followers there, “especially in the sectors of education and business”.

At its peak, the Gulen movement operated schools in 160 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States. Since the coup attempt, Turkey has pressured allies to shut down Gulen-run establishments.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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