Georgia has temporarily halted extradition procedures against Mustafa Emre Çabuk, a manager at the Private Demirel College, while the Ministry of Refugees considers his application for asylum.
Çabuk was detained in Tbilisi on 24 May on Turkey’s request, accused of ‘supporting a terrorist organisation’. Tbilisi City Court ordered Çabuk’s provisional detention for three months, and he remains in custody.
If Çabuk’s asylum request is denied, the extradition process will continue, however, if he is granted refugee status, he will be released from custody.
Georgia’s Minister of Refugees Sozar Subari said that while the ministry is discussing Çabuk’s refugee status he cannot be extradited.
Supporters of Çabuk — including civil rights groups and students of Demirel College — gathered on 7 June in front of Government of Georgia later moving to the old parliament building in Tbilisi to urge the authorities to release Çabuk’s.
‘Free Mustafa Emre Çabuk’, ‘Pre-extradition detention is unsubstantiated’, ‘Give us back our teacher’, ‘Do not extradite’, ‘Don’t sacrifice our educator for political interest’ — the posters read. More than 200 people attended the rally, waving flags and banners in support of Çabuk.
Rally in support of Mustafa Emre Çabuk in Tbilisi on 7 June (Luka Pertaia/OC Media)
Çabuk has been living in Georgia since 2002, when he started teaching at Batumi’s Şahin School, before working as a manager at Demirel College in Tbilisi. His wife and two children, who also attended the rally, reside in Tbilisi.
According to Çabuk’s lawyer, he is accused of ‘helping one of the shareholders [of Demirel College] to sell his shares to US-registered company Metropolitan Education and Consultation Services’. This American company is not considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey’s government, according to the lawyer. ‘I didn’t know that selling shares was terrorism’, his lawyer continued.
Turkey claims that Çabuk was trying to help Turkish opposition figure Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Turkey of plotting the July 2016 coup. Turkey considers the Gülen movement a terrorist organisation.
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